Vietnam: half a million Catholics in street protest

In what is being seen as the largest religious protest in Vietnam’s history, more than 500,000 Catholics took to the streets around the country yesterday,  to protest over police attempts to stop a parish  holding services in the grounds of a Catholic church  bombed during the Vietnam war and  recently confiscated by the government.

Police in Nghe An, Ha Tinh, and Quang Binh  were put on high alert in response to the huge protests.

At 7am local time yesterday (Sunday), 170 priests and 420 women religious led 500,000 Catholics of Vinh Diocese and neighbouring dioceses in peaceful protests in 19 deaneries.
Banners were hung across the entrance of the Bishop’s Office and on the front of every church in the diocese protesting over government persecution of the Catholic Church.
The banners demanded the immediate release of seven  parishioners who were beaten  and arrested in a violent police raid last Monday. Eleven more parishioners who were arrested have been released.

The police have accused Catholic activists of “counter-revolutionary crimes, violating state policies on Americans’ War Crimes Memorial Sites, disturbing public order, and attacking officials-on-duty,” state-run media outlets reported.

Local Communist officials have called for the “severest punishments” for Catholics who attempt to reclaim Church properties that have been confiscated by the government.