50,000 Catholics pray following govt intimidation
Catholics have been clamoring for the release of the two parishioners in My Yen and an end to the smear campaign against the diocese of Vinh by government-controlled media.
Despite floods following a typhoon, at least 50,000 Catholics took part in Mass concelebrated by 20 priests in Thuan Nghia parish on October 6, even as state authorities announced more arrests and indictments against Catholics.
Not far from the place chosen by the Catholics for Mass, thousands of police, paramilitary and members of pro-government have been carrying out a series of anti-riot military exercises for the last few weeks. The exercises take place particularly on Sundays. Catholics consider this is to foment tension in the area.
Catholics have been clamouring for the release of the two parishioners in My Yen, considered to be prisoners of state, and an end to the smear campaign against the diocese of Vinh by government-controlled media.
Last weekend too Catholics prayed for peace and recognition of the inalienable rights of all Vietnamese citizens. The peaceful protest was impressive considering the devastation caused by Typhoon Wutif in the area.
Wutif had flooded roads, knocked down power lines, demolished thousands of homes and damaged dozens of churches. In spite of the damage, the faithful were unwilling to cancel Mass and prayers, the weapons chosen by the community to respond to government intimidation.
The dispute between the state and Catholics started with the protests demanding the release of Peter Ngo Van Khoi and Anthony Nguyen Van Hai, imprisoned since June without charge. The violent police crackdown of a peaceful protest rally on September 4 was followed with a smear campaign against the church by government-controlled media.
Catholic leaders have received letters of support from the main religious leaders of the country. The local and central authorities reiterated their stand threatening to intervene harshly to quell protests or demonstrations of dissent.