Vietnam: Pressure on the Church

The authorities of District No. 2 in Ho Chi Minh City want to expropriate land and property of the archdiocese of Saigon, razing a two hundred year old religious institution in order to create a project of “new urbanization” . At the center of the dispute , the parish of Thu Thiem, which has been serving the community for over 150 years , and the buildings occupied by the sisters of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart (including a very busy chapel) again present in Thu Thiem for over 173 years. Already in December, the local district of the Communist People’s Committee had issued seizure order number 4825/UBND and now intends to accelerate operations and expropriate the land and buildings from the Catholics.

Leaders of the Catholic community say this robbery goes against state law and constitutes a “blatant violation of religious freedom .” The district authorities cannot order the expropriation of land , so the local Communist leaders directive is a “coup” implemented through “persuasion, coercion and threats” against two religious institutes.

Recently, District 2 authorities first tried to take advantage of the absence of Card . Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man due to an illness to negotiate the sale of the property, putting pressure on the cardinal gave the go-ahead for the operation. For land and outbuildings of the parish of Thu Thiem , about 4 thousand square meters, they apparently offered about 750 thousand dollars and just over 1.3 million for the more than two acres belonging to the female congregation.

Following this they implemented real threats and coercion against a priest (J.B. Lê Đăng Liêm) , while he was in poor physical condition in a hospital bed . However, the pastor of Thu Thiem did not budge and told them that he was “ready for martyrdom for the parish and the Church of Vietnam.”

A faithful of the parish of Thu Thiem told AsiaNews that the administration of Ho Chi Minh City has “covered the abuses committed by the leadership of District 2,”and that these , as is always the case when it comes to money and business, do not hesitate to perpetrate all forms of abuse and rights violations . This is echoed by another parishioner, according to whom “the city authorities consider money more important than historical and cultural traditions”. The urbanization projects , warn the people, destroy the environment, pollute the area even more and will further damage to the population, especially the younger generation .


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