Vietnam: Police assault Catholics, breakup Mass; Official offers guidelines on religion

June 15, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Vietnam, June 13, 2016: Police assaulted several Catholics when authorities broke up a Sunday Mass held at a home in northeastern Vietnam, June 12.

Some 30 police and officials forcibly dispersed around 70 Catholics attending a Mass conducted by Father Joseph Nguyen Van Than held in a layperson’s home in the town of Muong Khuong.

“The police made noise, demanded to check people’s personal papers and asked them to leave the home,” a source told ucanews.com.

“They also beat three people who used their cell phones to video their acts and removed video clips from the phones,” said the source.

The source said police also detained a Mass goer and forced him to admit to causing public disorder. They also forced him to promise he would not attend Mass in the future.

The source said local Catholics have sought permission from the authorities to build a church but have been refused on multiple occasions.

To conduct prayer and Mass services, Catholics in the area have gathered at other laypeople’s homes. The communist authorities regard such religious activities as illegal.

Police also stopped a Mass service at another house on May 28.

Muong Khuong is a mission station of Lao Cai Parish in the province of the same name.

French missionaries introduced Catholicism to the province in 1892 and established Lao Cai parish in 1912. Religious activities were restricted in 1954 after communist forces defeated the French military.

Many Catholics had to recolate when the war between neighboring China and Vietnam broke out in 1979.

Catholics had to listen to Mass aired by Radio Veritas Asia based in the Philippines for years to practice their faith.

Lao Cai province is the home to tens of ethnic minority groups. The province now has three parishes and 25 subparishes and mission stations with three churches, serving 6,500 Catholics.

Vietnamese official offers guidelines on religion

Vietnam, June 13, 2016: Vietnam’s deputy prime minister has asked religious affairs officials to enhance state management on religious affairs.

At his June 9 meeting in Hanoi with officials from the Government Committee for Religious Affairs, the body that controls and manages all religious activities in Vietnam, Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh asked committee officials to complete policies and pass a draft law on faith and religion in order to increase state management of religious affairs.

The fifth draft of the first-ever law on faith and religion that is provoking anger among religious followers is expected to be approved by the National Assembly at the end of this year.

“The state respects and guarantees religious freedom of the people but all religious activities must obey laws,” Binh said in a statement published by Vietnam’s Communist Party’s online newspapers.

Binh also urged officials to direct religions to operate within the law and fight against “bad elements who abuse religious activities to undermine national unity.” The communist government has used this arbitrary accusation to imprison or persecute followers of unregistered groups.

According to the committee’s statistics, Vietnam has recognized 39 religious organizations within 14 religions that have 24.3 million followers, or 27 percent of the 90 million population.

– ucan

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