- A group of thugs linked to the Vietnam Patriotic Front, instigated by local
authorities, targeted the faithful gathered in a house of prayer in Con Cuong
district - Nghe An province, Vinh Diocese- as they gathered to celebrate Mass Sunday. The
attack against the Catholic community took place on the evening of July 1 and
is just the latest in a series of incidents of persecution that have targeted
Christian communities in the area since November of last year (see AsiaNews
Vinh Catholic kidnapped by police on Christmas Eve). Anonymous
sources interviewed by AsiaNews also
reported that the so-called "local authority" gave up to 25 dollars "compensation"
to the thugs who beat priests and lay people who only wanted to gather to
celebrate the Eucharist.
On the evening of July 1, as every Sunday, Fr. J.B. Nguyễn Đình Thuc met with faithful in a chapel of Con Cuong, to celebrate mass. Suddenly, a group of thugs - probably close to an extremist nationalist movement - disrupted the function targeting those present. Instigated by local authorities, who pay these groups to attack Catholic communities, the mob struck with force and brutality, injuring dozens of people. One of them, Mrs. Maria Ngo Thi Thanh, suffered a skull fracture and was hospitalized in intensive care.
In recent weeks, officials of Con Cuong have patrolled the streets of the district on board a jeep, broadcasting slogans and warnings against Catholics - lay and clergy - guilty of "illegally celebrating of the Mass". Some families confirm that "local authorities do not know" or pretend not to know the "laws governing religious freedom in Vietnam." Police and security agents threaten Christians and force the faithful to promise not to participate in functions or ceremonies in the future. "They are violating the laws of Vietnam - comment members of the community - as well as basic human rights."
However, in spite of threats and persecution, which continued for a year and a half Fr. B. Nguyễn Đình Thuc celebrated Sunday Mass and rites associated with major feast days. In response, the local government has strengthened its enforcement policy "by mobilizing hundreds of people including police, undercover agents and groups of thugs" who throw stones at the faithful, and make arrests. A source, anonymous for security reasons, tells AsiaNews that the perpetrators of the violence "are rewarded with 25 dollars each" for their actions against peaceful believers.
In response to yet another attack, the parishioners have protested outside the offices of the district Con Cuong People's Committee, asking the local party secretary to put an end to violations and respect the principle of freedom of religious profession. But leaders continue to ignore these requests and allocate police to harass the faithful. In recent weeks, the traffic control officers have closed access to the churches, making it increasingly difficult to participate in mass and services. The faithful expect a strong and resolute stance of the Bishop of Vinh, in defense of religious freedom.