Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, journalists and people of good will of the international community,

We would like to inform you with an update on the current persecution against the Catholic Church in Vietnam by the government.

Vietnamese Catholics have met with defeat and frustration in their efforts to secure the return of church properties that have been confiscated by the government. On May 21, Nguyen Thanh Xuan, the government's deputy chief of religious affairs, announced that the state "has no intention of returning any property or goods to the Catholic Church or any other religious organization."

Dear friends,

As an illustration for Xuan’s statement, a series of buildings seized by the State in South Vietnam have been demolished to build hotels and tourist resorts. These actions by Vietnamese government have indicated that they're ready to unleash a new, harsh policy on Church’s properties.

All of a sudden, on June 6, “the government of An Giang province has demolished the two-story building once housed the priests and religious of the Holy Family Order”, reported the spokesperson for diocese of Long Xuyen.

The monastery, built in 1971 by the Congregation of the Brothers of The Holy Family of Banam, is still in so good condition that the sudden demolition has surprised Catholic officials. To date, local government has neither announced its intention for the future use of the land, nor informed the diocese on its decision to tear down the building.

Also, the altar and religious statues were all discarded in a rubbish dump but neither the diocese nor the Order has been informed officially to come and retrieve those items.

Dear friends,

The situation in the monastery of the Holy Family Order in Long Xuyen in the light of Xuan's statement has brought about growing concerns that Vietnam government has applied a new, harsh policy on Church’s properties in which there would be no more dialogue, and it would behave as if the State is the true owner with full authority on Church’ assets.

The Congregation of the Brothers of The Holy Family of Banam was founded by Bishop Valentin Herrgott, the then Vicar Apostolic of Phnom-Penh, Cambodia in 1931. In 1970, after a coup against Norodom Sihanouk, due to security reasons, the Order moved to the diocese of Long Xuyen, Vietnam.

In 1984, as what had happened to Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres’ in Vinh Long, all brothers of the congregation were arrested and charged with “anti-revolutionary activities”, and their monastery was seized. They had been jailed for years without a trial.

The congregation has repeatedly requested for the requisition of its monastery protesting the unjust detention of its members. All have gone into deaf ears.

Dear friends,

In another development, a leading Catholic Church official in Vietnam has joined a chorus of prominent intellectuals and scientists questioning government plans for a mining project in the country’s Central Highlands region.

In a sharply worded letter dated May 28, Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man criticized government exploitation of Vietnam’s environment.

“The natural environment is a gift for everyone, not for a particular individual or minority group; a gift not only for the present generation but also for generations to come,” the Cardinal said.

The archbishop of Saigon diocese said it was his duty to raise awareness about the risks of environmental damage in Vietnam after reviewing reports on a planned bauxite mining project.

“Since the natural environment is for everyone, no one has permission to damage or control it even in the name of economic development or strategies to gain profits for only a small group of privileged people,” he said.

“Recent developments have proven that investors have only their personal profits in mind without taking into account the effects that their production might cause the living environment. These strategies of economic development can lead only to chaos,” he warned.

Prior to his criticism, many Catholic priests had strongly condemned the government bauxite plan. One of them is Fr. Joseph Le Quang Uy, a pro-life hero, who has just been detained at Tan Son Nhat airport on Saturday June, 6 as he was returning home from his pastoral trip abroad.

Fr. Joseph Le said his luggage had been searched meticulously and his lap-top was confiscated by the airport security and customs agents. The priest was later released with a citation that requires him to come to the Office of Cultural Inspection for a follow-up meeting on next Monday Jun 8, 2009

Fr. Joseph Le has been known as a pro-life hero who devotes his time and effort for the good cause of saving lives of the unborn and the underprivileged. He has long been under a watch list of Vietnam government since he started to organize a small but devoted army of Catholic volunteers mobilized to the abortion clinics for persuading desperate young girls to abandon their abortion plans, or searching for the remains of aborted fetuses at dumping sites, bringing them to the designated cemetery for religious burial rituals. While his work goes against the state's policy on strict family planning policy, it has been praised by many as humane and a message of hope in the dark age of humanity in a country where abortion rate is among the highest in the world.

His latest mission was something that made him a marked man by Vietnam government: in his open letter dated April 25, 2009, Fr. Joseph Le publicly called for all Vietnamese- at home and abroad- to sign on a petition which challenge the decision of Vietnamese government to open the door for the Chinese to start bauxite exploitation in central highland regions of Vietnam without adequately informing its Congress and citizens.

As a result of his call for action against the government, he and another fellow Redemptorist - Rev Peter Nguyen Van Khai, the spokesperson of the Redemptorist monastery and Thai Ha parish in Hanoi- had been severely attacked by the state media.

Some of these outlets even called the government for "immediate and severe punishment" of the two priests, "before they go too far." The accusations issued against the two priests, in particular the "sin" of plotting to overthrow the government - a crime in which the death penalty could be applied - are so serious that they lead to the belief that the government is preparing public opinion for an immediate crackdown.

Dear friends,

Please pray with us and voice your support for the Church in Vietnam, for the safety of our priests and of those who are bravely fighting for the common good of people in Vietnam.