10/17/2016, 13.58
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Fr Đặng Hữu Nam, the "voice of justice" against the environmental disaster, receives threats, risks arrest

by Tran Viet

A Nghệ An provincial leader writes a letter calling for the clergyman’s removal. For some, this is a plot. The bishop refuses, insisting that “Fr Nam will serve” in his parish. For months he has helped people affected by pollution caused by the Formosa Plastics Group.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Vietnamese authorities want to remove Fr Đặng Hữu Nam from Nghệ An province (north-central Vietnam), where he is helping people affected by the environmental disaster caused by the Formosa Plastics Group.

Lê Xuân Đài, vice president of the People’s Committee in Nghệ An province, wrote a letter (7533/UBND-NC) against the clergyman threatening him with arrest, a plot against the priest according to local Catholics.

In the missive, Mgr Nguyễn Thái Hop, bishop of Vinh, is asked to "correct" (chấn chỉnh) Fr Nam’s pastoral activities and stop his work in Nghệ An province.

The prelate, who heads the Justice and Peace Commission, told the Voice of America Vietnamese service that "We have our pastoral plans for this year. Fr Nam will serve again in Phú Yên parish” where he is the vicar.

Parishioners oppose the authorities' demands. "Lê Xuân Đài has defamed Fr Nam in many ways,” some of them said. “In fact, the priest has helped us in a difficult situation. He has supported us against the Formosa (Plastics) Group and helped us when we lack food and medicine. Without him, hundreds of children could not go to school."

Residents in central Vietnam have been protesting since April when 70 tonnes of fish died because of pollution caused by a plant owned by the Taiwanese conglomerate after waste was released into the sea. More than 200,000 people in the provinces of Nghệ An, Hà Tĩnh, Quảng Bình and Huế have been affected.

In early September, Fr Nam raised the alarm about the tragic conditions in which his parishioners live.

At the end of the month, he led thousands of families, Catholic and non Catholic, to the district court to sign a petition calling for government transparency. Last Friday, the court in Kỳ Anh rejected the request for compensation.

For some Catholics, the authorities now want to arrest Fr Nam. “The first thing they do is defame him, then they label him and blatantly lie about him in order to discredit him.”

“For this reason, we are praying for him, and remain in communion with him and the Church. We back the legal case for Catholics and non Catholics to find peace and justice for our children."

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