Letter to The Right Honorable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

The Right Honorable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington St.
Ottawa, Ontario,
K1A 1A2

Toronto, September 2nd, 2008

Dear Prime Minister,

With our hearts filled with thanks to the Lord for sending “Les Peres Redemptoristes Canadiens” from the Ste Anne de Beaupre-Quebec in the late 1920’s to Vietnam as missionaries to set up churches, schools and monasteries in the country’s major cities, we are writing this petition to you to express our deep concerns about the dispute between Redemptorists and the Government of Vietnam over a piece of property at Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery. We have been shocked by recent religious and human rights violations against the religious order as well as the Catholic faithful who have assembled since January for peaceful prayer vigils at the site of dispute.

The property in question consists of 15 acres of land purchased by the religious order in 1928. After the Communists takeover of North Vietnam in 1954, most of the Redemptorists in North Vietnam were either jailed or deported, leaving a native priest in charge of the property. Despite the pastor’s protest, local authorities, following a harsh anti-religious policy, had allowed individuals and state-run organizations to seize the parish’s one section at a time. The 15-acre plot has been reduced to only about half an acre.

Since 1996, the religious order has repeatedly requested the return of the property claiming that it was seized illegally- all to no avail. Redemptorists and their followers in their desperation were left with no choice other than holding peaceful protest to call out for justice from the authorities.

In response, the Government of Vietnam launched a terrorizing campaign against Hanoi Catholics, starting with a series of arrests on August 28, 2008. On the same day, numerous priests and lay peoples were kicked and beaten brutally by police officers when they peacefully requested for the release of the detainees.

Canada has long tradition of being a champion of religious and human rights through out the world. We respectfully request you do everything possible to ensure that the authorities in Hanoi desist from all sorts of violent repression of the protestors, and seriously search for negotiated settlements regarding the confiscated Church property that is at the root of the dispute. The Government of Vietnam must respect its own laws and international laws that it signed. It must immediately take firm and concrete actions to prevent further religious and human rights violations against members of any religious affiliations.

With thanks and best regards,

Mr. Norm Chu
President, Society for the Propagation of the Faith
Mission of the Vietnamese Martyrs
Saint Cecilia’s R.C. Church
161 Annette Street
Toronto, Ontario, M6P 1P5

Names, addresses and signatures of petitioners
From members of the Society for the Propaganda of the Faith