In spite of a massive police presence, and the cancellation of ferries, tens of thousands of Catholics in Vinh Diocese took to the streets today (15 July) to protest against local government attacks on the Con Cuong parish community.
In a letter dated 10 July, 2012, sent to all cardinals and bishops in Vietnam, the diocese of Vinh reported that: “Recently, Catholics in the diocese of Vinh who reside in the North West region of the Nghe An Province have been repeatedly persecuted for their faith. The attack on Sunday 1 July was the peak of a series of harassments against Catholics in the region. On that day, the local government mobilised large groups of police, army, militiamen, and thugs to disturb, and to physically attack priests and the faithful. They seized the chapel of Con Coung, desecrated the Eucharist Host, and smashed a statue of the Virgin Mary.”
Asking for spiritual supports and solidarity from other dioceses in Vietnam, the diocese called for massive protests today to demand an end to the persecution that is “ongoing by the local government”, and the immediate halt to the ongoing propaganda and defamation campaign against Catholics in the state media.
Dioceses across Vietnam have responded to the appeal with special prayers.
Banners have been hung in front of all churches of the diocese of Vinh protesting at the government actions.
The An Ninh Thu Do (Capital’s Security) Newspaper, government newspaper, threatened Le Quoc Quan, a Catholic activist of Vinh diocese, with an imminent arrest.
Le Quoc Quan is a well-known Vietnamese lawyer and human rights defender. He has been harassed constantly since 2007 by the Vietnamese authorities because of his human rights activities and his vigorously defence for the legitimate rights of the Church in Vietnam.
On Saturday morning, police raided his office and attempted to drag him to a local police station. They failed to do so because of the intervention of a group of friends and neighbours who blocked their way.
Another Catholic prominent reporter JB Nguyen Huu Vinh, who was badly beaten at Dong Chiem last year, was attacked inside his house on 8 July. He was stabbed in the back and forearms.
On Saturday morning, three armoured fighting vehicles were seen in front of the Bishop's Residence of Vinh. Police in provinces of Quang Binh, Ha Tinh, and Nghe An had been put on high alert in the wake of huge protests by Catholics from 178 parishes of the diocese of Vinh. Large groups of security men also roamed the streets near churches.
Thousands of local Catholics had spent Saturday night walking for tens of kilometres on National Highway 1 before they could reach to the deanery’s church. At dawn, National Highway 1 en route to Thuan Nghia was packed with thousands of motorbikes carrying Vatican flags from parishes of Loc Thuy, Son Trang, Xuan An. By 7am local time, thousands of Catholics had already gathered at deaneries of Bot Da, Thuan Nghia, Van Hanh, Bao Nham, Cau Ram, Nhan Hoa, Cua Lo, Dong Thap, Phu Qui, Can Loc, Van Loc, and at the bishopric office of Xa Doai.
Scheduled services of ferries between Dong Lam and Quan Lang were cancelled to prevent local parishioners to join the protests. Local Catholic sources from the diocese of Vinh also report an incident at Bot Da where police and thugs disrupted the Mass at Bot Da. The protests at other deaneries went peacefully.