Vinh (AsiaNews) - With the support of the entire Vietnamese Catholic Church, the Diocese of Vinh has responded to recent defamatory attack by government media, defending the good name of its bishop and community.
Stressing the faith and honesty of Mgr Paul Nguyen Thai Hop, who is also chairman of the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace, the diocesan curia accused government newspapers and TV stations of "manipulating the truth," stirring up minds, "complicating the issues" and causing "offence and outrage" among people.
A violent crackdown in recent days against peaceful protests in Nghe An province is at the origin of the clash between local authorities and the Catholic community. This came after hundreds of Catholics had taken to the streets to demand the release of two co-religionists who have been in jail since last June without formal charges against them.
In a letter of protest about the media in Nghe An (television, radio, newspapers and news agencies), the diocese of Vinh pointed the finger at the "false articles and stories, which distort the truth, and offend the reputation and honour of the bishop and the entire community" of Vinh.
For this reason, Catholic leaders want a "correction" so that "facts are presented according to the truth", and reject the accusation that "issues relating to land rights" are due to the attitude of the faithful and pastors. Instead, for the Church, disputes are rooted in "deficiencies in the law" and a "senseless policy" by the government, which allows local authorities to commit abuses and violations.
Listing a series of fires and acts of violence, later manipulated by pro-government media in their coverage, the diocese said that the press should be more independent and detached from the authorities.
In reality, it is clear that one is obviously beholden to the other to an extent that borders at times with collusion between the two "powers", an attitude that, in the relationship with citizens, shows a lack of "honour, dignity, respect for the health and lives of the people."
"The laws of Vietnam have become an effective means for the authorities to use whenever they want to suppress their own people," the diocese's note said in concluding.
Mgr Paul Nguyen Thai Hop, bishop of Vinh, had previously intervened in person, with an open letter addressed to the priests, seminarians and faithful of the community.
In it, the prelate said that 4 September was supposed to be a day of celebration for the arrival of the auxiliary bishop, but was marred in the afternoon by the attack against the "innocent people" of My Yen Parish.
In the letter, he summed up the day's events, showing the authorities' deception and the heavy handedness of the military against Catholic protesters involved in a peaceful demonstration, in which they only asked for information on the fate of two innocent people who have been in jail (for months) for no specific reason, or charge.
Government forces responded instead with "tear gas, sticks, clubs, explosives, professional dogs," Mgr Thai Hop said.
"I harshly condemn the inhuman and barbaric behavior of the authorities," the prelate added, calling at the same time on the faithful to "continue to pray and offer sacrifices in communion with My Yen Parish and in solidarity with the victims."
He went on to say that prayers would be recited each Sunday in the coming weeks to secure the release of Peter Ngo Van Khoi and Anthony Nguyen Van Hai, "who are still in prison", and "for all the victims of violence."