Ho Chi Minh: thousands of Catholics pray for religious freedom and civil rights

» 09/26/2011 13:31

by Nguyen Hung
The Redemptorists of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City close to those who have been arrested for their faith or political activity. Even former Communist party leaders and managers are turning to Christian groups, asking for help and prayer. Yesterday, authorities arrested another young Catholic member of the choir of the Redemptorists.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – The Redemptorists of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are praying for religious freedom, peace in the country and the release of the activists and those who have been imprisoned because of the Christian faith. At8 pm yesterday evening in the church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, in the parish of ‘former Saigon, over 2 thousand people listened to a Mass and prayed for young Catholics, recently arbitrarily arrested by the authorities: the Catholics turned their thoughts to those who struggle for justice, truth, freedom to worship and practice and protest against the nations – the reference is to the expansionist ambitions of Beijing in the South China Sea – called “aggressive and expansionist.”

In the last few weeks in Vietnam, it has become increasingly common for Catholics and non-Catholics, whole families and former Communist Party leaders to turn to the Redemptorists, asking them to pray for the health of family members and friends, or for the release of relatives jailed without trial. In recent months the government has detained hundreds of activists, guilty of having violated the Articles 88 and 79 of the Criminal Code, but in reality these people have “only” asked or encouraged reforms aimed at greater social justice, religious freedom and protested against “the ‘imperialism of China”.

Meanwhile, the authorities clampdown on dissidents shows no sign of stopping; yesterday another faithful, a member of the Redemptorists choir in the city, was arrested by the police. So far, at least 20 Catholics, mostly young people, have been recently imprisoned. Most of them lived and worked in the diocese of Vinh, and the Archdiocese of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

The waves of arrests have raised concern and indignation among Vietnamese immigrants. In recent days, Voice of the Martyrs Canada (Vomc) has condemned the arrest and imprisonment of Father Nguyen Van Ly, held despite failing health, demanding his immediate release.

A faithful of Ho Chi Minh City told AsiaNews about the change in “strategy” of the communist authorities, who “no longer arrest the dissident priests,” because they fear international public opinion. For this reason they “kidnap” young Catholics, collaborators on websites, or employees of activists and volunteers in parishes. Human rights activists add that the highest levels of government must “assess the degree of religious freedom” in the country, because still today “repression and persecution of religions and believers”, take place in “some areas and because of some local officials”.