Vietnam: Priest beaten stirs tension
|Bishop Hoang (in white shirt) met with regional police after the assault|
|He too was verbally assaulted|
“On his way home after celebrating a funeral Mass at Đăk Hring, Fr. Louis Nguyen Quang Hoa, assistant priest of Kon Hring, was savagely beaten with steel rods by three unknown young men,” reported Bishop Michael Hoang Duc Oanh in a pastoral letter dated March 3. The assault was so savage that Fr. Louis had to abandon his motorbike and fled into the woods but the perpetrators followed and kept beating him until he collapsed, according to the report.
In his Lenten pastoral letter addressing all priests, religious and faithful of the diocese Kontum, the prelate expressed his concern that such an assault would lead to “more frustration and misunderstanding”.
Local government has insisted that the region has been marked as “No Religion Zones”, and that all religious activities must get the necessary “case-by-case approval” beforehand. Challenging the local authorities’ blatant violation of religious freedom, the prelate announces that he is going to celebrate the Holy week right at the spot.
The announcement recalls a similar reaction the prelate did in the Lent season of 2011 when he resolutely celebrated Easter Mass in the Montagnard village of Son Lang to challenge the local authorities who had prevented him from celebrating Christmas.
He had sent numerous petitions to the authorities at all levels, asking for permission to celebrate Mass in a village where his priests have never been able to celebrate the Eucharist. Permission was granted. But when Msgr. Duc Oanh arrived, along with a priest, he found a hostile atmosphere because police and women of the Communist League women outnumbered the faithful, controlling and mocking the Catholics and the bishop. A long queue of Catholics requested permission to confess. The celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation took place to the sound of laughter and jokes at the gestures of the faithful.
And after the Mass, the bishop and the priest were brought to the police station and subjected to interrogation for hours. The officials accused the bishop of violating the permit that "only allowed the celebration of Easter Mass, as he had also" baptised persons ","deliberately exceeding what was allowed”.
The bishop protested, denying that he had not "baptized people," he explained that he had only helped the faithful to reconcile themselves with God.
As has been noted in numerous reports on Vietnam, religious freedom is severely repressed in the manner common to Communist countries; that is, through registration requirements, restricting religious practice to government approved organizations and leaders, through monitoring and infiltration, through propaganda discrediting the nature of the various religions and through coercive and violent forms of control.