Sydney, September 26, 2008 â€“ The Vietnamese Catholic
Community in Australia (VCCA) would like to report to the Australian Community
and the International Communities about the critical situation concerning
persecution against the Catholic Clergies and faithful by the Vietnamese
As this Press Release
is being published, several Catholics are still being detained in prison. The
Archbishop of Hanoi, the Most Rev Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, and numerous leaders
of the Redemptorist Congregation in Hanoi
have been the subjects of a government campaign of public defamation and
extreme legal action has been threatened against them all. The Vietnamese
Catholic Community in Australia (VCCA) sent thousands of petitions to Prime
Minister Kevin Rudd and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference asking for
Since 18 December
2007, Hanoi Catholics have been organising daily prayer vigils outside the
former building of the Nunciature in Hanoi,
pleading for return of the building that had been confiscated unlawfully by the
Communist regime in 1959. The parishioners' protests only came to a halt at the
Holy See's instruction when the government agreed on 1 February 2008 to return
the building to the church. As understood by both sides, the Vietnamese
Communist government was to undertake the steps necessary to return the
property. However, it managed to delay returning the property using various
Suddenly on 19
September 2008 the government announced the buildings at the Nunciature would
be demolished to make room for a playground. Demolition commenced immediately
with the backing of its armed forces. This action clearly contradicts the
policy of dialogue that the Catholic Church and the Vietnam Communist
government have pursued. It insults the legitimate aspirations of the Hanoi
Catholic community, ridicules the law, and does not respect the agreement the
government had with the Catholic Church in Vietnam. It is also an immoral act
and a mocking of society's conscience.
In Thai Ha parish,
Redemptorists and their faithful have been repeatedly requesting the return of
another property claiming that it was seized illegally â€“ all to no avail. A
public outcry and protests came after Thai Ha parishioners discovered that
local government officials had secretly sold their land to private entities.
These victims in their desperation were left with no choice other than holding
peaceful protests completely complying with Vietnam law to call out for justice
from the authorities since 5 January 2008.
Communist government has not listened to them and repeatedly attempted to
silence protestors by using large numbers of police and security forces,
militiamen, and even street gang members.
Last month, the
Vietnamese Communist government launched a terrorising campaign against Hanoi
Catholics, starting with a threat to use "extreme actions" against
Catholic priests, depicting them as "criminals" who "have used
their influence to incite the faithful in a confrontation against the
government". The campaign, which has ignited negative sentiment not only
clergies but also the Church as a whole, was stepped up on 28 August by a
series of arrests. Numerous priests and lay people were kicked and beaten
brutally by police when they peacefully requested the release of detainees.
Demonstrators claimed the police used stun guns, smoke grenades and beat them
brutally, causing dozens to be hospitalised.
At the Redemptorist
monastery in Thai Ha parish (the centre of one of the property disputes) street
gang members attacked a shrine at the church from late Sunday night 21
September through early Monday morning 22 September. Police and city officials
saw this but took no action.
Last Sunday evening 21
September a gang of about 200 youths wearing the blue shirts of the Youth
Communist League came to the Thai Ha church to harass and spit on the face of
our priests, religious and faithful. This followed a series of events last week
when another group of thugs came to dump used motor oil and foul-smelling
liquid onto the altar which was adorned with a religious statue of Our Lady.
Last night on 25
September, a gang of Communists chased Catholics away from the area before
gathering at the gate of the Hanoi Archbishop's office where they yelled out
communist slogans calling for the head of the Archbishop of Hanoi, accusing him
and other Catholic leaders of treason.
Priests and staff of
the Hanoi Archbishop withdrew inside the office and closed the door. Hundreds
of police and officials standing nearby to back the construction inside the
Nunciature did nothing to help the Catholics. Instead, some of them helped the
gang destroy an iron cross erected in January, and carried the Pieta statue
into a truck. The statue had been located in front of the Nunciate even before
the Nunciate was seized by the communists in 1959. Parishioners had moved the
statue into one of the buildings just before Christmas last year.
Some people who were
praying at that time ran into the nearby St.
Joseph's chapel (belonging to the Cathedral parish)
where they continuously rang the bells to ask for help from surrounding
parishes. At that point, police ordered the gang to withdraw to avoid a clash
with Catholics who were rushing to the site. The truck with the Pieta statue
Catholic Community in Australia
denounces these actions and asks that the Vietnamese Communist government:
1) Stop persecutions
of Catholic clergies and their faithful
2) Respect its own law
and return the property to its rightful owner
3) Stop immediately
the violations of Human Rights.
Australia has a long tradition of being a beacon
protector of Religious and Human Rights throughout the world and a beacon
whenever humanity is in harm way. We respectfully request that you do
everything in your power to ensure that the Hanoi regime desists from all sorts of
violent repression of the protestors, and return the confiscated Church
property that is at the root of the dispute. The Vietnamese Communist
government must respect its own laws and international laws that it had signed
and pledged to obey. It must immediately take firm and concrete action to
prevent further Religious and Human Rights violations against followers of
religious groups, recognizing their rights to practice their faiths free of
harassment and oppression.