While the government persists on defaming priests and faithful and prepares to “draw the sword”, Bishop Joseph Dang Duc Ngan of Lang Son, who has been at Thai Ha since last Friday, states that Catholics are not rioters praising them as peaceful people who dare to get out of fear to stand up for justice and the truth. Bishop Francis Nguyen Van Sang of Thai Binh says bye-bye to his flock to go to the jail as he committed all the ‘sins’ the state laid against protestors.

Mass at the land of dispute
Thousands gathering to pray daily
There have been developments in Hanoi signaling that the government now rejects any chances to dialogue with the Church over the dispute at Thai Ha. On Thursday, the Dan Tri newspaper reports that police have just issued 4 “urgent orders of arrest”. The victims are Thai Ha parishioners who have actively taken part in prayer protests. Fr. Matthew Vu Khoi Phung, superior of Thai Ha monastery, claims that 7 lay people have been arrested so far. He himself is summoned by police on Friday Sep. 12.

In the New Hanoi, attorney Vuong Trong The claims that there has been more than enough evidences for the conclusion that the protest in Thai Ha is an “organized crime”. The paper goes further stating that the protest is plotted by “hostile forces” opposed to the communist government. Other state-run media continue fabricating stories each day in an attempt to discredit the Catholic Church. Some even express “the astonishment and the frustration” why the government has not taken “all necessary measures to re-establish public order.”

Some Catholic reporters in Hanoi have been summoned by police and asked to stop sending their articles to the outside world. Some even are hunted by police.

In response, Bishop Joseph Dang Duc Ngan of Lang Son, in his sermon at Thai Ha monastery, strongly defended protestors claiming that “they are not rioters, not anti-society people who disturb public order,” as described in state media. Rather “they have a strong conviction,” he added, “to live up their Christian vocation in their earthly journey.” “Our presence here,” he said to protestors “means that we overcome our fear, and the suspicion of others in order to declare to society, with one voice, that we hold great values and a great dream of fairness, justice, and peace."

In a dramatic event, Bishop Francis Nguyen Van Sang of Thai Binh in an article released on Thursday says that “I want to say farewell to my faithful as I could be jailed for having committed all the ‘sins’ that state media have laid against Thai Ha protestors.”

“I attended a prayer vigil in front of the statue of our Lady with the faithful there,” he explained. “In addition, I have written articles and posted them on the Internet.” State media have condemned protestors of “praying illegally at the statue of our Lady at Thai Ha”, and “posting anti-government articles” on the Internet.

He goes on defending the rights of Catholics and people of other faiths to publicly speak out against injustice peacefully. Out of the fear that the government rejects the rights of free speech and “draws the sword”, he is already prepared to be jailed.

“I seriously declare with you that if I am jailed, pray for me and stop believing what may be attributed to me”, he instructs Catholics citing the case of Archbishop Nguyen Kim Dien of Hue who was jailed and attributed to be author of some distortional statements. “I am afraid that there will be false articles or statements attributed to me. So in that case, you should stop believing statements attributed to me as you do now,” he adds.

Catholic protest is a scarce event in Vietnam. A protest which is supported by the presence of all Bishops in the northern region of the country is even more exceptional, in fact unprecedented in the history of the Church in Vietnam.