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Christian Property Under Attack in Northeast Vietnam

ICC Note: Since the Communist takeover of Northern Vietnam in 1945 Christians, and especially Catholics, have been forced to relinquish large amounts of property to the government. Today the Communist Party continues to take expropriate land owned by the Catholic church despite protests and petitions on behalf of the Christian community. Recently the "Department for Urbanism" issues a new expropriation order for land in Northeastern Vietnam owned by the Church since 1928. The Communist Party views the growth of Christianity as a threat to its autocratic control and regularly discriminates against Christians, whether via land seizures, strict regulations on church registration, and even the outright harassment and arrest of pastors, especially those belonging to ethnic minorities. 

9/23/2013 Vietnam (AsiaNews) - Hanoi authorities have opened a new battle front with Catholics with an expropriation order issued by the Department for Urbanism and lease of land owned by the Redemptorists of Thai Ha parish, near lake Ba Giang. The priests, religious and faithful say the measure is " illegal" and constitutes a " violation" of the rights of the Christian community , as explained in a letter published in recent days by the superior Fr . Matthew Vu Khoi Phung . In the letter sent to the president of the local Communist People's Committee Nguyen The Thao , the priest bears witness to the surprise and discontent of the faithful of Hanoi, in reference to the proposed changes to the area in question, which for Catholics it is only a " pretext" to deny their rights and give way to the realization of new building projects as has already happened in the past.

The superior Fr . Matthew explains that the land around lake Ba Giang "belongs to, is cared for and used" by the Redemptorists in Hanoi since 1928 , and , he adds, "we have never granted, given or transferred the right to use any part of land to individuals or organizations". He goes on to mention that it is an "act contrary to the Constitution and the law," an attempt by the People's Committee of Hanoi - through the Department for urbanism - to build on the land of the parish, in the face of numerous petitions to the contrary.

The priest says it is also an act that offends "moral and common sense" and that will eventually cause "serious damage to the rights and interests" of religious organizations, as "an offense against the faith and feelings of religious believers". Five years after the demolition of the Marian shrine for the creation of a public park, Hanoi authorities are preparing to requisition another important piece of Christian history in the Vietnamese capital.

For years, the priests and faithful of Thai Hai have been denouncing the illegal seizure of land by the State. In November 2011, hundreds of police and soldiers with dogs and thugs , followed by a state television crew, attacked the convent of Thai Ha, shouted abuse through megaphones , threw stones and smashed the door . The assault was interrupted by the faithful from neighboring parishes, who flocked to the convent called by the bells of the church of Thai Ha.

What the state claims as "public property" was purchased by Redemptorists in 1928. When the Communists took over in 1945, the authorities gradually whittled away parish-owned land.

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