Hanoi (AsiaNews) – The tension in relations between Catholics and the Vietnamese authorities show no sign of abating, as evidenced by new episodes of violence in the parish of Dong Chiem, while the Catholic Bishops' Conference has formally requested the correction of a news report released by the official VNA. The state agency claimed that the bishops had sent New Year greetings to the Patriotic Front, an organization linked to the Communist Party. An episode strongly denied by the Bishops.
In Dong Chiem after the destruction of the crucifix that stood on the mountain that forced removal of the crosses brought there by the faithful, most of the hundreds of agents and activists who had poured into the area in January had, as emphasised by state media, since been distanced, in order to “return to normal”.
But this is not the case. On 24 February a group of nuns from the Sisters of Cross Lovers, who came from Ho Chi Minh City together with dozens of lay faithful to visit the parishioners for the New year, were attacked and beaten by officers in plain clothes, at the entrance to the town. The nuns were not seriously injured, but the Hanoi volunteer who was their guide had to be admitted to the Viet Duc hospital in serious condition.
The incident follows another episode dated to 19 February, when a dozen of the faithful of the parish of Nam Du, of the diocese of Hanoi, where submitted to a hail of large stones as they walked toward their homes. They report that police threw large stones at them, causing injuries and seriously damaging their car (see photo).
Plain clothes officers, says Father Joseph Nguyen of Hanoi, "are very aggressive." "The pilgrims who come to Dong Chiem have been threatened and even assaulted during the New Year."
What makes it more obvious that the target of violence are just the Catholics, is the fact that those who go to visit the famous Huong pagoda, which stands not far from Dong Chiem, are warmly welcomed and protected by agents who belong the same department.
Violence aside, another sign of the tense atmosphere is the decision of the Episcopal Conference, to request the rectification of a report published by VNA, the Communist Party news agency, according to which January 29 a delegation of bishops submitted season’s greetings to the Patriotic Front. The bishops have said that none of the people named by the agency had received any kind of promise, nor the task of broadcasting greetings to the organization. Individually and collectively, the bishops expressed their concern about the biased way in which the state media treat religious activities, stressing that dialogue between church and state can only take place in truth.