On Jan. 25, 2007, Vietnam PM Nguyen Tan Dung paid a landmark visit to Pope Benedict XVI and Vatican officials. Three weeks later, on Feb. 19, 2007, security police surrounded and raided Hue Archdiocese to ransack the office, confiscated computers, electronic equipments, and arrested Father Nguyen Van Ly, a Roman Catholic priest who had been imprisoned for 14 years for allegedly disseminating material criticizing the government's limitations on religious and political freedom.

The rage did not end there. The Church in Vietnam has since then been suffering more than ever. Masses have been denied for Catholics of Son La, and of numerous towns in the Central Highlands, even celebrations on major holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Monasteries at Thien An - Hue, Vinh Long, Long Xuyen, and Nha Trang were in turn seized and bulldozed to build hotels and tourist resorts. Redemptorists in Thai Ha and their faithful have continually suffered from physical attacks. They were even tried in criminal court for holding peaceful protests which ended up with unjust verdicts. Even Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet was not immune to malicious attempt, either.

On Monday morning July 27, Fr. Paul Nguyen Dinh Phu parish priest of Du Loc was beaten brutally by a group of plain-clothed police and thugs when he was on his way to Tam Toa parish. Bishop’s Office of Vinh Diocese made an urgent complaint to the People’s Committee of Quang Binh and asked Fr. Peter Nguyen The Binh, pastor of Ha Loi, the nearest parish, to accompany with Tran Cong Thuat, deputy governor of Quang Binh, to visit Fr. Paul Nguyen.

At the hospital, Thuat secretly withdrew. As soon as he went away, the gang jumped to Fr. Peter Nguyen and beat him cruelly before throwing him from the 2nd floor of the building.

As the tension boiled, Bishop Paul Marie Cao Dinh Thuyen of Vinh called for peaceful dialogue. His call was ignored while army and police were put in high alert and deployed by great mass in the area. Neither dialogue nor apology came from the People’s Committee of Quang Binh. Instead, a few months later, it spent a huge amount of money to demolish a large statue of Our Lady at Bau Sen Parish’s cemetery, while threatening more extreme actions.

On Dec. 11, Vietnam Chairman Nguyen Minh Triet visited Vatican. Again, three weeks later, “At around two o’clock in the morning of Jan. 6, a great mass of estimated 600 to 1000 police, security forces, and militiamen equipped with weapons, batons, tear gas, and police dogs besieged parishes of Nghĩa Ải, Tụy Hiền, Đồng Chiêm to isolate the area and prevent any rescue effort from neighboring parishes to pour in. They then started destroying the crucifix,” the archdiocese of Hanoi reported to the international community.

“Facing such an extreme act of sacrilege, parishioners of Dong Chiem begged the police to stop destroying their crucifix. But in response they were shot at close range with tear gas canisters. Among a dozen brutally beaten, two of them were seriously injured and hospitalized,” Fr. John Le said, condemning the brutal acts of police. These two victims were reportedly transported by police after the attack to a clinic in the town of Te Tieu where they had received no medical attention until later in the day when the priests and parishioners found and brought them to Viet Duc hospital for medical treatment.

“We are now coping with severe grief and shock, for what happened to the crucifix was an act of sacrilege to the Christ, our Lord. It was really sacrilege. To desecrate the crucifix is to insult the most sacred symbol of the Christian faith and of the Church. To brutally assault the unarmed, innocent civilians is a savage and inhumane act as human dignity is severely hurt. This gross conduct should be condemned!” lamented the statement.

After Triet’s Vatican visit, there has been a glimmer hope that tough issues between the Church in Vietnam and the government would be resolved soon and peacefully through dialogue. That hope seems to be short-lived when the government opted for violence as a method of choice at Dong Chiem.

Please pray for the Church in Vietnam in the wake of ongoing persecutions.