01/09/2010, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Vietnamese bishops accuse the government crackdown on the destruction of the crucifix

by J.B. An Dang
The brutal attack on the crucifix of the cemetery in Hanoi and the destruction of sacred symbols "ingredients of the policies" of the communist regime in resolving disputes. The bishops call for dialogue to find a peaceful solution. The faithful build a new bamboo cross; the police arrest five Catholics and close down the site.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - The bishops of North Vietnam, in solidarity with the archbishop of Hanoi, have expressed dismay at the destruction of sacred symbols of faith and for the brutal attack on the Catholic community. At the end of a meeting held yesterday in the office of the archdiocese in the capital, the 10 bishops declared that the destruction of the crucifix in the churchyard of the parish of Dong Chiem, on 6 January, and violence against the faithful are "two ingredients of government policy in resolving disputes with religions".  

Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, archbishop of Hanoi, along with the North Vietnamese bishops personally visited the faithful of the parish of Dong Chiem, victims of the brutal police attack. In a gesture of defiance toward the government, the faithful erected a new cross in bamboo (see photo), in the same place where the cross destroyed in recent days was located. They want to affirm the right of ownership of the land that "has belonged to the parish for more than 100 years and will not be abandoned."  

In response, the police arrested five Catholics and prevented access to the area. The place where they were conducted is currently unknown. The officers have so far not destroyed the new bamboo cross. The state media, however, have taken over the smear campaign against Catholics, accusing them of "fostering hatred" in the country.

Following Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet’s visit to the Vatican and his meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, there were signs of hope that the pending conflict between the Church and the communist government could find "a peaceful solution through dialogue."  

However, the attack against the faithful of the parish of Dong Chiem recalls the methods used against the faithful in Tam Toa and Bau Sen (in the diocese of Vinh) and Loan Ly (Archdiocese of Hue). The two dioceses were the scene of violence by government officials and police, which destroyed the symbols of faith, beat and arrested faithful and priests and seized the properties of Catholics.

The North Vietnamese bishops have warned the government not to use measures that might create "further discontent, anger and mistrust among the people" and reiterated the previous statements of the Bishops Conference, which call for a change "in the laws governing the possession of land and property".  Hanoi denies these rights, because "the land belongs to the people" and "the State administers it". The bishops respond that the right to own private property is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and must be respected.  

At the end of their message, the bishops confirm their willingness to "collaborate with the government" for the good of the country and the construction of a "big family" where all members can coexist peacefully.  

(With the collaboration of Thanh Thuy)

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