10/08/2013, 00.00
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Vinh: amid threats and attacks, 50 thousand Catholics pray for release of the two parishioners

by J.B. An Dang
Tens of thousands of faithful at the Mass on October 6 , ask for the release of two faithful unjustly imprisoned. The function was held in an area marked by the devastation caused by typhoon Witif . Not far away soldiers and paramilitary militias held urban warfare exercises in riot gear.

Hanoi ( AsiaNews) - Vietnamese Catholics have responded with prayer to threats and attacks by the media, state and army of Hanoi. For a few weeks, thousands of police, members of the communist student youth soldiers and paramilitary organizations have been carrying out a series of anti -riot military exercises. Meanwhile , the government media continue their smear campaign against the diocese of Vinh, in the north , fighting for the respect of religious freedom and the release of two parishioners for months in prison without trial or having committed any crime. This past weekend, as has happened on several occasions in September, the local Catholic community gathered in great numbers to celebrate Mass and pray for peace and recognition of the inalienable rights of all citizens.

On October 6, at least 50 thousand Catholics in the parish of Thuan Nghia took part in the Sunday service , concelebrated by 20 priests (pictured ), a response to new attacks by the government media, announcing more arrests and indictments against Catholics . A peaceful protest , made even stronger and more impressive following the devastation caused by the passage of the typhoon Wutif throughout the area which flooded roads , knocked down power lines along the highway A1, demolished thousands of homes and damaged dozens of churches.

In spite of the damage inflicted by the strong winds and rains, the faithful were unwilling to cancel the Mass and prayers, the weapons chosen by the community and Church leaders to respond to the government attacks. Catholics have been clamoring for the release of the two parishioners in My Yen, who are now considered to be the "prisoners of state," an end to persecution and the smear campaign against the diocese of Vinh .

Not far from the place chosen by the Catholics for Mass, thousands of police , para - military and members of pro-government organizations held a series of exercises in riot gear The exercises focus on the release of hostages, area patrols, crowd control and urban warfare. The exercises take place, particularly on Sundays , in conjunction with the Christian functions , which for Catholics is a clear "provocation" and "deterrent" , with the aim of fomenting tension in the area .

The dispute between the state and Catholic centre on events linked to the parish of My Yen, calls for the release of two faithful (Peter Ngo Van Khoi and Anthony Nguyen Van Hai) , in prison since last June without charge. The support of Catholic leaders - who have received letters of appreciation and solidarity from the main religious leaders of the country - has triggered the reaction of the local and central authorities , which have threatened to intervene harshly to quell protests or demonstrations of dissent. Many Masses and prayer meetings have been held in recent weeks, including the function at the Shrine of St. Anthony , a center of pilgrimage in the diocese of Vinh not far from the place where the violent police crackdown of September 4 occurred.


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