Bishopric of the Diocese of Kontum
146 Tran Hung Dao-Kontum-Vietnam
No. 33/VT/12/Tgmkt

Kontum April 4, 2012


His Honourable Truong Tan Sang, President of Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV)
His Honourable Nguyen Sinh Hung, Chairman of the National Assembly, SRV
His Honourable Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister, SRV

Respected gentlemen,

On Mar 4, 2012 the Bishopric of Kontum received Letter No. 269/UBND-NC from the county of Dak Ha(1) denying our request to celebrate Easter at Turia Yop, Dak Hring commune Dak Ha county, Kontum province. This very location is also where Rev. Nguyen Quang Hoa was seriously beaten on Feb 23, 2012 on his way home from a funeral Mass of an old ethnic woman. We respectfully ask the Kontum provincial government to let us reach out to the highest ranking leadership of the country, by this open letter, to convey the wish of thousands of our faithful in an area where freedom of religion has not been allowed for decades (1972-2012). This reporting to the supreme leadership is not to seek any favours or interventions, but to fulfil our duty to report.

Freedom of religion is our basic and sacred right!

Freedom of religion is not a privilege but rather a basic, sacred right! We have been pursuing the road of meeting, exchanging dialogues at all levels, from village to commune, to county to province. Then we go down ward from the provincial level to county, to commune! We are now ready to go to the central government to complete the cycle. At the provincial, commune or village levels, dialogues seems feasible to gentlemen such as Mr. Ha Ban, Secretary of the Provincial Party Committee; Mr. Nguyen Van Hung, Chairperson of the Provincial People's Committee; Major General Le Duy Hai, Director of Public Security. But at the of county Dak Ha, with Secretary Hanh in particular, things appear to be very difficult. For decades (1972-2012) Dak Ha County, to the Catholics, has been dubbed the county of "anti-religion" within the province. The act of "abusing the faithful" has been so sophisticated that to this date, our gentle Excellency Bishop P Tran Thanh Chung still says "Even going to ___(expletive)__ (the Communist government of) Dak Ha would not allow". The ill treatment of Ha Mon group which has inadvertently exaggerated by local officials as "Ha Mon heresy which set up by some priests" was indeed an achievement of the Dak Ha county's anti religion policy. For more than 30 years (1972- 2004) our fellow faithful in Ha Mon have still been suffering the big "3 Zeros" policy - No priest, No church, No sacrament" ! Not until 2004, we were able to obtain permission to build our tiny first church with the size of 7m x 10m in Kon Trang, Hlong Hloi after several years of "campaigning through dialogue". On the day of the church's dedication, 95% faithful were standing in the open sky, right on the "state property", since the government only returned a piece of 10 square meters ? Is that what "Freedom of Religion" is all about?

"All for national interests and people’s benefits"

" All for national interests and people’s benefits ". On Mar 30, 2012, during the reception of Major General Le Duy Hai, Director of Public Security of Kontum province who came to talk to us about Turia Yop at the Bishopric of Kontum, the Vicar Rev. Nguyen Van Dong had posed this question out of the blue: Should the government refuse to let Your Excellency come to celebrate Mass at Turia Yop, will Your Excellency come notwithstanding? If not, we think Your Excellency should resign from your post"! Such question spoke its volume of the position and aspiration of all our diocesan family. If someone being put in the position of serving the people fails to do his job to its fullest capacity, a resignation is only the right thing to do! We had responded clearly, that "the issue here is to put the interests and happiness of the people first. For the legitimate right to wellbeing of the faithful, we will go, even being prohibited. “Even a worm will turn to escape death when being trampled upon!” People of faith like us once being pushed over the edge, in fact being pushed over the edge for almost 40 years, our survival instinct would have to kick in so we can "live our lives in dignity". You, gentlemen, had learned and taught others that "Wherever the oppression is, there will be resistance" and "struggling is for happiness", as simple as as it sounds. Are there anyone who would label the worm "reactionary" when it turns to fight against the force which tramples upon it? Please try to neither label anyone of us as "reactionary" or "obstruction of justice", nor charge someone with conspiring to overthrow the government or pushing for peaceful evolvement. It's just simply unjust.

The reason given by government of Dak Ha as "security and public order would not be guaranteed" was not so convincing to anyone in this digital world today. Does it dare to offend the honour and the hard work of many in a country which has been proud to claim "victories over the two leading imperialists"? After 30 years in peace, how can one comprehend why this government cannot secure the minimal level of security for people in an area only several kilometres away from National highway 14, within a stone’s throw from Dak Ha, the most prosperous town of Kontum?

The excuses of "There is no worship place" or "The faithful in this area need no priests. They can worship at home", even "The priests polyterize, recruit faithful members among local people", to the ears of those who are conscientious or possess some intelligence, would not cut!!! Does it still hold true that to date, religions are still being viewed as "opium which sedates people" therefore should be banned or abolished? Or perhaps "Religion is nothing but a reactionary organization" as asked by an ethnic 10 grade student to us last month? Has this thought ever crossed your mind and startled you "Oh God! The Chinese invaders from the East Sea have flooded Dak Ha" ?

Respected gentlemen,

After we have exhausted our efforts to be patient and resilient throughout all meetings, presentations and dialogues, what we ought to do now to make it right? Please consider this: should we accept the Dak Ha County’s ban on religion as stated in letter No. VT 269/UBND-NC or head the desire (and the need) for freedom of religion of thousands of faithful in Turia Yop to which the Laws and Constitutions of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam acknowledged ? Should we listen to the Word of God or false statement of others? Today we would like to repeat what we wrote in the letter to the country's top government officials on September 11, 2008 which read "We are not foolish to act against the regime, our concept is that today 's regime is like a ship sailing on a stormy sea. Just turn the steering wheel is a bit to change ship course and people will enjoy freedom and well -being they have longed for. And that would be the freedom and well- being the government would enjoy as well (2). Hopefully, from the Tura You experience, the central government would have a better understanding of the circumstance which people are in; the local officials would have more compassion for people of faith. Together we can build a society which is more humane, fraternal, equal and happier! Let no one forget that the very officials and people's servants that are corrupted, bureaucratic, and oppressing people are the real saboteur of the regime! Nevertheless, being people of faith, we thank you for Turia Yop, for which the beloved Good News is being widely proclaimed, and as the messenger of the Good News, we are reminded to go "preach the Word, speak out when convenient or not convenient" (2Tm 4, 2)


Michael Hoang Duc Oanh
Bishop of Kontum Diocese.

(Signed and sealed)

Copy sent to:

The Government Committee on Religion.
The People's Committee of Kontum Province.
Kontum Provincial Public Security Department.
The Department of Internal Affairs of Kontum Province.
The Catholic Bishop Conference of Vietnam (CBCV).
Hiep Thong Magazine of the CBCV
Kontum Priests -and all parishes in diocese of Kontum.


(1) Letter No. 269/UBND-NC of Dak Ha County's UBND
(2) Letter No. 95/VT/08/TGMKT, to the national supreme leaders of the CHXHCNVN dated 9-11-2008

Translated from Vietnamese by VietCatholic News Agency