Vietnamese nuns protest for return of property

Ho Chi Minh City, Mar. 19, 2008 ( - A group of Vietnamese nuns has inaugurated public protests against plans by the government to turn their property into a hotel and night club.

The Sisters of St. Vincent in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) are commencing public prayer vigils at a building they once owned, which was seized by the government in 1975. The protests are an echo of the dramatic prayer vigils by Catholics in Hanoi, which prompted the government to promise the restoration of a building that was once the office of the papal nuncio.

In Ho Chi Minh City, the contested property was owned by the Sisters of St. Vincent, who operated a day-care center there. In 1975, when the Communist government came to power in southern Vietnam, the nuns acceded to heavy government pressure to open a kindergarten on the site. But in 1997 the government seized the building entirely, and has subsequently ignored requests for its return.

In recent years the government has leased the building to private owners, in order to raise money to support the local administration. A club has been opened in the building, and last year police raided that club, reporting that it was operating as a brothel.

Now under the administration of a different government unit, the building has been slated for demolition, with the administrators saying that they will redevelop the property into a hotel and night club. The Sisters of St. Vincent, joined by the Archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh City, have pleaded for restoration of the confiscated building, and the nuns have begun daily prayer vigils to protest the destruction.