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ICC NOTE: A group of masked men were reported to have attacked a Vietnamese priest after he had been vocal against corruption within local authorities according to Asia News. Christians and other religious minorities residing in the Southeast Asian nation face increasing repression and abuse especially from local authorities. Last week the wife of an imprisoned pastor was detained, interrogated, and allegedly tortured by police after she completed a meeting with US officials regarding the state of religious freedom in Vietnam. Currently there are countless Christian individuals who have experienced physical assaults or languish in prison. 

5/16/2016 Vietnam (Asia News) – He boldly criticized the corruption of the police and local authorities. For this Fr. Joseph Nguyễn Văn Thế was brutally attacked by police while on his way to celebrate two masses in a remote area in northern Vietnam. The priest was beaten with sticks and metal bars and sustained serious injuries to his hands and feet. Right now he is hospitalized.

The attack took place on 7 May. Fr. Thế is the assistant of the Đồng Chuong parish, in the diocese of Bắc Ninh. The parish is located in Tuyen Quang province (in northern Vietnam) and covers the largest territory of the whole diocese (100 sq km), with more than 6 thousand faithful.

Fr. Thế was attacked around 6 pm (local time) as it headed to Sơn Dương district to celebrate the functions. Witnesses said that “the aim of the criminal group was to kill him. But their attempt failed. ”

The priest had expressed no reservations about the corruption of local authorities and their illegal activities. Father Joseph Nguyen Van Phong, vicar of the same parish said: “This is a deliberate attack, under the direction of the local government and police. It was not a random aggression. ”

On hearing of the incident, Msgr. Cosma Hoàng Văn Djat, bishop of Bắc Ninh, went to the hospital to visit the priest. The latter was able to tell the dynamics of his attack in detail and reported that some police officers had gone to the parish to know the time and place of the Mass that he would celebrate. “Last Saturday [May 7] I was headed to the Minh Thanh area – he said – to preside over the liturgy. After, I had to go to Hop Hoa, about 30 km from Thanh Minh, to celebrate a second Mass. But suddenly four criminals with their faces covered by masks approached me. They were riding two motorcycles, they jumped down and attacked me with batons, sticks and iron bars”.

Some parishioners reported that “people who follow a different faith from government dictates, are increasingly repressed and abused.” A young man speaking to AsiaNews anonymously adds: “Fr. Thế is a kind old priest. He helped so much, and came here to work and serve the faithful and the residents”.

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