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Vietnam: Christmas marked with violent crackdowns

Catholic World News - December 28, 2010

Beatings, Church raids, arrests, forbidding Christmas Mass, bulldozing monasteries – are some of the violent incidents inflicted on Christians by authorities in Vietnam.

An estimate of 2000 Protestants were locked out of a Christmas celebration scheduled to take place at the National Convention Center in the Tu Liem district of Hanoi on Sunday December 19. The organizers had rented the auditorium but at the last minute the managers of the state-owned facility unitarily terminated the contract.?Deeply disappointed to see the door locked and hundreds of uniformed police chasing them away, the Christians began singing and praying in the square in front of the building. Police called for reinforcements and started punching some Christians, striking some with nightsticks. Eventually police reinforcements wielding cattle prods dispersed the crowd the site, but not before at least six people including Rev. Nguyen Huu Bao, the scheduled speaker at the event, had been arrested.

Similar blockades stopped church services simultaneously in Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, and Da Nang.?

Earlier, on two consecutive days, December 8 and 9, local officials interrupted scheduled liturgical celebrations and ongoing Christmas preparations at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Saigon, belonging to the Redemptorist order. Father Vincent Pham Trung Thanh, the provincial superior, was taken in for questioning.

Two weeks later, Redemptorists in Vietnam faced another trouble. In an urgent protest letter published on Dec. 20, Father Joseph Dinh Huu Thoai, chief of the secretariat of the local Redemptorist province, protested that the Redemptorist monastery in Dalat city had been seized by the local government of Lam Dong to be converted into a regional biological research institute.?In a similar incident, Sister Philippe Dinh Thi Nhung, the provincial superior of the Sisters of Providence of Portieux, accused the local government of Soc Trang Province of bulldozing the order’s monastery in Soc Trang City.

On Christmas Day, local officials at Son Lang village, backed by police and militia, banned Bishop Michael Hoang Duc Oanh of Kontum from celebrating Mass. “If you want to celebrate your Mass you can do so, but not for everyone here. You have to go to each family and each Mass cannot last for more than one hour,” he was told. The prelate gave his blessings to the congregation and cancelled the Mass as a gesture of protest. ?

The escalation of violence crackdowns of the government, happening simultaneously on a large scale, sparks a growing concern among Catholics over a new policy of repression against Christians. The fear has been reinforced by bustling activities of ‘patriotic’ Catholics.?

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