03/28/2015, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Vinh: government uses violence to drive out Catholics from their parish

The authorities targeted the small, remote parish of Dông Yên. Most Catholics have left, but about 150 families have decided to stay. Police carried out a raid, injuring several parishioners, a few days ago. The bishop of Vinh expressed his solidarity with the victims.

Vinh (AsiaNews/EdA) – The authorities have targeted again the small, remote parish of Dông Yên, in the diocese of Vinh, in the northern province of Nghe An, and used force to drive the faithful out of the area.

Most Catholics (80 per cent) have already left of their own accord to rebuild their community elsewhere, obeying government plans to redevelop the area. However, a group of parishioners (some 150 households) have refused to move to a different place.

Since things began however, pressures from local authorities on those holding out have become heavier, leading to the use of violence to evict the remaining residents.

After a local school refused to admit the children from the remaining families, police violently attacked local Church properties on 17 March.

A few days later, on 20 March, the local bishop, Mgr Paul Nguyen Thai Hop, received a delegation that described the events of the previous days.

Along with local priests, the prelate heard their complaints and tried to solve the many problems the residents face.

Dông Yên Parish is located in an area that became front-page news in 2012 when Vietnamese authorities decided to build deep-sea port facilities. This required relocating scores of Catholic families.

Most accepted the government's offer for compensation and relocation a few dozen kilometers away. Some parishioners rejected the proposal outright, pointing out that the compensation was insignificant compared to the losses suffered.

Pressures from the authorities intensified last year, culminating in the exclusion of Catholic children from local schools in September.

Tensions climaxed with a punitive police raid on 17 March, which involved the parish, the hall where catechism was taught, the former rectory and other church buildings. Several parishioners were also injured in the incident.

Like the Vietnamese Catholic Church, some leading international financial institutions have noted that the question of ownership of land and buildings in Vietnam is much more than a legal and constitutional problem, but acts as a brake on the country’s economic development.

In just three years, some 700,000 disputes have broken out over land, many of them over compensation, including approximately a million hectares of farmland converted to other purposes between 2001 and 2010, this according to the World Bank data.

Similarly, in the past two years, land disputes have blocked or delayed many of the 80 infrastructure projects funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), worth some US$ 9 billion.

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