Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, January 18, 2008

Hanoi demands Catholics cease ‘illegal’ prayer vigils

Catholics in Viet Nam, who have been holding prayer vigils for almost a month in protest over church land seized by authorities in the 1950s, have been told to stop their “illegal activities” or face government action, intellasia.net reported on Friday, citing Agence France-Presse.

The instruction came in a letter from the Hanoi People’s Committee, a copy of which was published on a Vietnamese language Catholic website. “Those activities have disturbed public order and negatively affected the good cooperative relations between the Vietnamese bishop’s council, the archbishop and the local authorities,” the letter said.

There had been hope that the standoff would be resolved after Prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung – who a year ago became the first communist Vietnamese leader to visit the Vatican – met Archbishop Kiet during a mass prayer meeting in late December and pledged to consider the issue.

Although dialogue with Catholic groups began in the 1990s, all religious activity officially remains under state control: according to the article, that the current vigils represent “the faith’s largest challenge so far to the communist government.”

Viet Nam has Southeast Asia’s largest Catholic community after the Phillipines, with about 6 million out of a population of 84 million. “Christian festivals such as Christmas have become popular, with thousands of followers now crowding churches, but religious issues remain sensitive, and hundreds of police have been deployed to the Thai Ha and Ha Dong vigils,” the article said.

For the full article, click here.


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