Vietnamese Catholics defy ban on gatherings

Prayer meeting in Dien Bien province

Prayer meeting in Dien Bien province

Thousands of Catholics in three northwestern provinces have defied a government ban on religious activities by gathering at people’s homes to pray.

Joseph Nguyen Van Tien, who lives in Dien Bien province’s Muong Ang district, said that he started inviting local Catholics to pray at his home three months ago after he attended a prayer gathering 80 kilometers away.

“I am very happy that 120 local Catholics now gather regularly at my home on Sundays to pray,” said the 54-year-old.

The father of five said public security officials had questioned him many times and told him not to hold the prayer meetings.

“We fear nothing because we gather to pray for ourselves to live better lives and for our relatives on their death anniversaries,” said Tien. “We do not cause public disorder.”

He said that Auxiliary Bishop John Maria Vu Tat of Hung Hoa had petitioned the local government in August to allow Catholics to pray together on weekday evenings.

Pastoral activities for Catholics in Dien Bien and Lai Chau provinces, where religious activities are banned, started in 2007, says Father Pierre Nguyen Thanh Binh from Sa Pa church in Lai Chau.

At that time, small Catholic communities, numbering 50-70 persons, gathered at homes for prayers. There are now more than 4,000 Catholics, said Father Binh.

The priest says he also sends catechists and seminarians to teach catechism to Catholics.

Many Catholics have said they want the local government to recognize their religious activities and allow them to build churches.

Source: UCAN

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