Saigon 8/30/2008

Open Letter to the Pastors and all Catholic Priests

Dear Fathers,

In the wave of a lying media campaign manipulated exclusively by state run television, radio, and newspaper, we need to raise our voice to establish the truth. We have no media outlet other than this letter to tell you all the truth relating to Thai Ha issue.

In 1928, the late bishop Francoise Chaize, the then Apostolic Administrator of Hanoi Vicariate, had the purchase agreement on a piece of land made his name on behalf of the Redemptorist Order. The lot was located on the side of National Highway 6, currently known as Nguyen Luong Bang Street with a total area of 61,455 square meters. Subsequently, the name of the owner (of this lot) on the title was changed into the Redemptorists or Les Peres Redemptoristes (see the Land Purchase Agreement #42, 8/16/1944)

In 1943 as the Redemptorists were preparing to build a church on our property which Chien Thang Sewing Company is now occupying (a floor plan and Hanoi City’s Permit for construction were obtained), the war erupted and lasted from 1943-1946, including the 1945 famine which rendered the building plan of our church impossible.

On 5/22/1944 bishop Francoise Chaize had transferred the ownership of the land and property in question to the local Redemptorist priests. On this lot, the Redemptorist Order had built a monastery, an institute, a seminary, a chapel, and other facilities (see the diagram below)

Between 1961- 1963, the government started an appropriation campaign of our land without any legal document to back their claim. First they transformed the monastery into a school, then a hospital (currently known as Dong Da hospital) even though there was no governmental policy to legitimize their confiscation of any religious facilities at said time. On 1/30/1961 the Committee of Administration of Hanoi single-handedly issued resolution #76/QL ND, handling over the property to Dong-Da Wool Rug Manufacturing Enterprise (where the disputed property is now located) without the Redemptorists’ knowledge.

Currently in addition to houses, there are also government’s facilities are being built on our land such as Station #4, Office of the Red Cross, Office of the People’s Committee of Quang Trung ward (old and new), the Governmental Treasury, and school…

None of the appropriated facilities fell into the “Socialist transformation” category or any other government’s policy at said time. We would like to assert that father Joseph Vu Ngoc Bich was only a property manager, who never sold, donated, consecrated or offered (the land) to any individual or organization, and he had publicly affirmed his position over and over again during his lifetime (his statement was recorded)

In 1994 the Wool Rug Enterprise was consolidated with Chien Thang Sewing Co. Our property in question had been privatized. As a result of that father Joseph Vu Ngoc Bich on 8/81996 wrote to different levels of government to protest this privatization to no avail.

In the following years the Redemptorists /Thai Ha parish continued to send out complaints to all levels of government requesting their compliance with the law by returning the land in dispute to the Redemptorists and the parish. Twelve years has passed (8/8/1996 – 8/30/2008) but the government organization has never dutifully responded to the legitimate request of the Redemptorists/Thai Ha parish

On 1/5/2008 upon learning the disputed property was being vandalized by Chien Thang Company with our facilities being smashed up, roadways under construction, and other facilities being built, our parishioner realized it was our duty to protect the church’s property so they put up tents and religious icons to start prayer vigils outside the property. It has been 8 months since 1/5/2008, many time our parishioners have witnessed Chien Thang Company intentionally violating the law, allegedly under protection of the local government, but all along the parishioners have been trying to abide by the law, refraining from acting prematurely, keeping the area in order. They would only report to the government when discovering new violation of Chien Thang Company. While the parishioners were trying their best to display respect for the law, patiently waiting for the good news, a sign of mutual respect for religious freedom, justice and the truth from the government. But their good deed and their patience were not compensated adequately. In contrary to our expectation, on 6/30/2008 and 7/2/2008 the government had issued resolution 2476/QD-UBND (from the People’s Committee of Hanoi) and correspondence 4213/UBND/NNDC with contents on both documents lacking legal ground and showing no respect for the truth.

Facing the risk of our rights being taken away, our good deed being trampled on, and the fact that the government has no respect for the truth, the parishioners had no where to turn to except coming before God and the Holy Mother to beg for justice.

On 8/14/2008 on the feast of our lady of the Assumption, the parishioners held a procession during which the statue of the Holy Mother was then placed back on the stand where it had originally dedicated by the monastery and the parish. The procession went by without being interrupted by the security forces of Chien Thang Company nor the security officials. No report of violation had been filed.

On 8/15/2008 upon seeing the wall opposing the statue of the Holy Mother being close to collapsing due to the record breaking rainfall, which can cause series of accidents to the parishioners holding a vigil in front (of the statue), the parishioners had demolished it, making a better way for the vigil site. In the after noon of the same day, under observation of the local leaders as well as security officers, the parishioners carried a larger statue and a cross to the site, put them on a water reservoir, again no report of violation had been filed.

On 8/19/2008 the priests and brothers from the Redemptorist monastery and Thai Ha parish had filed a Complaint #06/2008/DCCTHN to the President of Vietnam, the Prime Minister and other concerned organizations to suggest the return of the legal usage of the land to the Redemptorist Order –Thai Ha parish.

On 8/19/2008 Hanoi Television, the New-Hanoi News, the Capital Security News, and the People’s Newspapers published / broadcasted the distorted truth about what happened in Thai Ha, justifying the breakdown on the gathering of the parishioners. Hanoi Television and Vietnam Television on the evening of 8/19/2008 had broadcasted accusations of parishioners’ actions, even defamed our priests and brothers.

On front page of the Saigon Liberated Newspaper on 8/20/2008, an article titled “Violation of the law and parishioners incitation are not acceptable” written by Nam Viet again unfairly condemned our parishioners, our priests and brothers in Thai Ha.

On 8/20/2008, Rev Cao Dinh Tri, assistant to the Provincial Superior of the Redemptorist Order had filed a complaint to the Prime Minister and the legal authority in regard to the disinformation from the Vietnamese newspapers and broadcasting systems (while the superior was on pastoral duties)

On 8/27/2008 the authority decided to file charges of disorderly conduct and causing property damage. Numerous parishioners had received Notice to Appear for an investigation.

On 8/28/2008 ignoring the due process, the Bureau of Investigation of Dong Da district proceeded to arrest a number of parishioners at their residences; the police mobile units had used excessive force to suppress, assault, causing bloodshed and then taken away numerous parishioners.

Respected Fathers,

As for us, we affirm that the Redemptorist Order- Thai Ha parish have in our possession enough legal and historical proofs to claim our ownership on the land in question and that we have been owning it prior to the establishment of Republic, Democratic of Vietnam.

The piece of land in dispute belongs to the Redemptorist Order- Thai Ha parish and there has never been any document to show it was transferred, donated or consecrated to any legal authority or organization. The Church’s Canon has prohibited any one, acting on their behalf, to personally transfer or trade any land or property that belongs to the Catholic church.

We’re resolute in our demand for fairness, justice, our rights upon returning the property of the Redemptorist –Thai Ha parish, pursuant to the constitution and the law of Vietnam, as well as the international laws to which Vietnam had signed and pledged to uphold.
(see Complaint # 06/2008/DCCTHN filed by the priests and brothers of the Redemptorist at Thai Ha parish)

We’re determined to pursue justice and the truth as the Lord Jesus had put it: “For the truth will set you free”

Respected fathers, the above is a summary of what has happened in Thai Ha in chronological order. In our circumstance of no mean to protect ourselves and to let justice shine, we respectfully ask for your compassion, your support and your prayer.

We appreciate your reading this letter,

Provincial Office of the Redemptorist Order of Vietnam

Rev Dinh Huu Thoai, C.Ss. R

Secretary of the Province