Police attack again Thien An monastery in Hue

The Communist authorities have set their eyes on the monastery’ land. On 26 June police stopped the monks from building a path. The following day the abbot sent a petition of protest to local and international authorities. The monastery can lose its case if the authorities “ignore the law,” said one monk.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Vietnamese authorities have attacked again the Catholic monastery of Thien An (Hue Province, central Vietnam), which has been targeted for land grabs in the past few years.

On 26 June, police raided the religious community as the monks were building a path from the main building to the garden.

The following day the abbot Nguyen Van Duc sent a petition to protest to the local People's Committee, which is located in the Archdiocese of Hue, to the European Commission in Vietnam, and to the US Embassy in Hanoi, denouncing the illegal land grab and the disrespectful attitude taken by Communist agents.

The monastery has been the victim of government harassment since 1998, when Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Cong Tan signed the expropriation order to seize land next to the monastery.

A priest, who requested anonymity, noted that the government acted illegally by issuing two orders at the same time – one to appropriate the land and the other to evict those who live on it.

“We will be the winner if this is done according to the law, but we will lose if they ignore the law,” he said. 

Founded on 10 June 10 1940 by French missionaries, the monastery of Thien An is visited regularly by the faithful. It is home to priests, men and women religious as well as seminarians, who engage in pastoral activity for Catholics and others in three different churches in the city.

The Archdiocese of Hue, which includes two provinces, has about 70,000 members and 78 parishes.

The anonymous source mentioned an incident in January 2015, when monks began to build a structure to honour the Virgin Mary.

The local government officials had planned to seize 100 acres of the monastery’s land and an adjacent structure for the construction of a leisure center and amusement park.

Officials hired thugs to try to frighten the Catholics to convince them to leave the area.

“Authorities claimed we erected the cross on their land, and they took it down [while] we all knelt down to pray,” he said.

Then authorities placed a pole on the monastery’s grounds to let people know that the land had been seized.

On 26 June, after stopping road construction, the authorities came to the monastery with a group of women, to meet the priests.

"We asked the women to go outside because they had nothing to do with our discussion with the government,” he said. “They used the women to humiliate us."

Today, Buddhists make up 48 per cent of Vietnam's 87 million people. Catholics represent just over 7 per cent, followed by those who follow syncretistic religious practices at 5.6 per cent. Finally, about 20 per cent of Vietnamese are atheist.

Even though they are a minority (albeit a significant one), Christians are particularly active in the educational, health and social areas.

By contrast, religious freedom is constantly shrinking. Religious groups are victims of acts of violence, threats and land grabs.

For weeks, the Sisters of Saint Paul of Hanoi have been guarding their land to prevent any confiscation.