By J.B. An Dang
Peaceful marches in the provinces of Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh. The demonstrators protest against arrests and police violence against Catholics last week, who were attacked by security forces at the ruins of Tam Toa church
Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Half a million Catholics in Vietnam took to the streets of their cities to protest against police violence and the attack on hundreds of faithful July 20, at the ruins of Tam Toa church (see AsiaNews 21/07 / 09 - beatings and arrests of priests and faithful in the historic church of Tam Toa).
The diocese of Vinh, 300 km south of Hanoi, and other neighbouring diocese organized 19 parades in as many deaneries, demanding the immediate release of the faithful, beaten and arrested by security forces at Tam Toa. About 170 priests and 420 religious led the peaceful protests that took place simultaneously in yesterday morning, at various locations in the provinces of Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh.
Organizers report some clashes between police and groups of demonstrators, in areas of the country where police had ordered people not to take part in the procession. Despite these threats, the faithful marched on, creating an event that some people are calling the greatest to ever take place in the country for religious reasons. The Tam Toa episode and these Sunday parades have rekindled tensions between the government and the Vietnamese Christian community regarding the issue of Church property confiscated by Hanoi. Nhan Dan, the newspaper of the Communist Party, launched a slander campaign against Catholics after the events of Tam Toa accusing the faithful, who had erected a cross and an altar there, of "counter-revolutionary activities, disturbance of public order and violence against public officers in service". The bishop of the diocese of Vinh, where the ruins of the church at the centre of the debate are found, has begin a tug of war with local officials in Quang Binh, who have jurisdiction on the case, accusing them of hiding the truth and breaking the law .
In a letter sent to local government, the Diocese of Vinh calls for the release of Catholics arrested in Tam Toa, medical care for the wounded beaten by police and the return of the cross and liturgical furnishings brought by the faithful to the ruins of the church and confiscated by police after the clashes. The silent protest marches organized yesterday reiterated the demands of the diocese of Vinh to the authorities. And the community of Vietnamese Catholics around the world have expressed their support for the event by observing a minute silence during Sunday masses.