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Vatican delegation visits the Montagnard in Kontum
by JB. VU
ICC Note: Here is some information about the Montagnards in Vietnam . The debate for religious freedom still continues

3/12/07 Vietnam For full story……(AsiaNews) – The Vatican delegation currently visiting Vietnam yesterday traveled to the diocese of Kontum, populated for the most part by Montagnard Christians. The diocesan community warmly greeted the group lead by msgr. Pietro Parolin, undersecretary for relations with States.

The Montagnard ethnic group is forcibly persecuted by Hanoi ; their living standards are among the poorest in Vietnam .

“This visit by a high level Vatican delegation – says a young man of Jarai ethnic extraction – makes us feel reborn and stronger in our faith, which every day is faced with enormous challenges”. “Catholics here very poor-, but deeply religious – refers a village leader of Bahnar origins – life is very difficult but there is great solidarity: we pray and work together every day”.

During the visit yesterday Msgr. Parolin reflected on the Vietnam trip: “we have still not completed the process of establishing diplomatic relations, but we will soon be able to do so. During meetings this morning, “we debated issues regarding religious freedom and the cases of some priests accused of propaganda and opposition to the central government”.

Speaking to AsiaNews Card. JB. Pham Minh Man, Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City, reiterates that “Between the Vatican and Vietnamese Church there is a bond of love and service through dialogue and collaboration”. The Cardinal went on to confirm that the Vatican is working together with the Council of Bishops and government on the issue of nominating new bishops, “even if in the past the political authorities interfered in many ways directly and indirectly”. Despite recent progress the cardinal cannot forget that, apart from diplomatic relations, there is still much to be done: “Vietnam’s constitution provides for ‘rights to freedom’ but in reality these are only ‘regulations of freedom’, which consist of a series permits and bans that are at the discretion of local authorities”. He adds: “The governments Committee for Religious Affairs maintains that it respects the opinions of the Bishops Council, but the reality is far removed from this”.