10/13/2008, 00.00
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Discrimination and hostility making Vietnamese Catholics more united

by Thanh Thuy
Surveillance of the religious, cultural, and social activities of the faithful continues: members of the communist youth movement are recording classes for the police. The Politburo praises the government media for their campaign of defamation, but the national news agency praises the humanitarian activities of the faithful. Meanwhile, the number of young people who want to learn more about the Church's social doctrine is rising.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - Beyond the manifest hostility of the authorities in the affair concerning the property of the Church of Hanoi - and in which the state media that have conducted a campaign of defamation has been praised by the Politburo - the 7 million Catholics of Vietnam are suffering widespread discrimination, together with constant surveillance.

The monitoring concerns everything that Catholics do in the areas of education, cultural, the economy, and social work. "In my class," says John Tran G., an English teacher, "in the Institute of economic administration in district 10, there are students who are members of the youth union, who work for the police and follow me in order to report to the local authorities. They report on my religious activities. They tell the directors of the Institute about my participation in prayer groups." "Every time I give a lesson," says a professor at Ho Chi Minh City Open University, " I see two or three of my students recording me. They may be doing this to show what I say and think to the police. When I come to class, I am sad and uneasy. But I don't want to leave my job, I love it and it helps me support my family." "When I teach," confirms a teacher at the national university, "my words are recorded by my students, who want to 'sell' the recordings or transcripts to the police, for little money. This makes me sad, because I'm offended in my respect for myself. It may be that the government is producing lying and mutual mistrust among human beings."

The fact is that the objective of education has become personal enrichment, and not the progress of society, not the formation of ideals. "The system of education," explains a professor of history, "has been degraded. The mechanism is destroying the cultural heritage of the country, concepts like 'ton us, trong dao', meaning the veneration of teachers and respect for traditional values. We are producing citizens of the 'chu nghia co ho', persons of 'opportunism' in society, who work to satisfy their selfish desires and not for the values of the country. They are willing to do anything for money, and this is terrible for our country."

But this covert hostility, and the open hostility shown in Hanoi in the controversy over the building belonging to the former apostolic delegation and the land of the parish of Thai Ha, are having the unintended effect of increasing the spirit of unity among Catholics, their hope and charity. Notwithstanding the fact that the party Politburo has celebrated its "victories" over the Church.

On October 8, in fact, the sector for media affairs and propaganda praised the state media for their efforts to "spread quickly, timely, and on the right direction propaganda relating to the breaking-law incidents of priests, faithful, and Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet at Thai Ha parish" and at the former apostolic delegation. The state newspapers have not concealed their joy at the victory over the Catholics, there have been complements and congratulations for the journalists, who expect promotions and medals from the Politburo.

Yesterday, however, the state news agency VNA dedicated an article to the humanitarian activities of believers, praising in particular what the Catholics of the province of Thua Thien-Hue have done, "doing good things for both the religion and the nation." This could be a small signal of a change in course.

For their part, the Catholics of Hanoi take consolation from the fact that the former delegation "had been used for a night club with loudly music frequently disrupting to church services at the nearby Hanoi cathedral. Thanks to the protests, that harassment has gone now." And Fr. Joseph Nguyen says "I have seen more people go to church even on weekdays, and more demands on Catholic social teaching studies, especially from young students. I think it’s more important than anything else.”

J.B. An Dang contributed to this report

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