11/07/2012, 00.00
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Vietnamese Catholics and non-Catholics pray for civil rights and religious freedom

by Br. Paul
In recent weeks government repression has increased, with arrests and detentions for "propaganda against the State". At least 2,500 people, even non-Catholics, take part in a special mass in the former Saigon "for peace and justice"; a united movement in defence of human dignity.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews)-Activists and members of civil society in Vietnam, including a large Catholic mission, have launched a campaign for human rights, freedom of thought and religion, against a Government that continues to repress internal dissent with arrests and prison. Recently the Church of Ho Chi Minh City celebrated a special mass, to pray for peace and justice in the country, which was attended by about 2500 people Catholics and non Catholics. The obsessive control of intellectuals, the repeated invasions of "security forces" in the private life of those who promote activities, initiatives or writing in favour of democracy, have increased the urgency for the birth of a movement aimed at curbing abuses committed "in the name of the law".

Hanoi's Communist Government continues to repress by force those who launch messages, slogans or blog on the web that advocate freedom and civil rights. Local provincial and urban authorities are abusing "the right" to arrest anyone and at any time, regardless of the veracity of the allegations and holding ordinary citizens in prison without trial.

Among the most recent cases is the story of Nguyễn Thị Phương Uyên, a student at the Faculty of food industry in Ho Chi Minh City. The girl is being held in prison in the province of Long An, and her parents are barred from visiting her. She has been charged with the usual and generic, "propaganda against the State". She is guilty of having composed a song in protest against Beijing's expansionism in the South China Sea. So far the appeals  of her university companions have proved useless.  They have also written a letter to Vietnamese President Trương Tấn Sang, asking for her release.

However, the arrests and convictions of dissidents and bloggers are relentless: 24 September three people were sentenced to 26 years in prison. On 30 October a court in the former Saigon mandated 10 years in prison for two musicians, Tran Vu Anh Binh and Viet Khang, also guilty of "propaganda against the State".

Catholics are responding to the government's wielding of the axe with masses and prayers, in the footsteps of the Redemptorists of Saigon, with a special mass celebrated on 28 October last "for peace and justice" in the country. The function was attended by about 2,500 people, including many non-Catholics to witness the value and the example provided by the Church in the struggle for rights and the full dignity of the human being. In his homily, Fr. Mathew pointed out that "the Vietnamese people want peace, justice and freedom" and that prayers and intentions are "for our brothers and sisters who were convicted or imprisoned". The priest wishes to see a peaceful struggle, fought under the banner of prayer "for our people, for freedom and democracy in the nation".

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