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12/11/2020 Vietnam (International Christian Concern) – A priest in southern Vietnam is taking the local government to court, since it fails to recognize the church’s legal ownership of former educational facilities that were “borrowed” by the government over four decades.

According to UCA News, Father Peter Nguyen Thanh Tung from Thi Nghe parish in Ho Chi Minh City, filed a petition against the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City who passed the parish’s school to public ownership.

Father Tung mentioned in the petition that the parish was granted legal ownership of a plot of land over two hectares next to the current church in 1951 and given building permits for two buildings used as a primary school in 1967 and 1974. The parish also paid annual taxes on its land.

When the Communist government publicized local private schools after April 1975, Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese gave the rights of management and use of its own facilities to the local government. However, a joint communique issued by the government and church educational officials at the time stated that “the archdiocese agreed to transfer the government the right to use its educational facilities from the academic year 1975-1976 to serve educational purposes,” and “the local church retains the ownership of those facilities.”

Despite the fact that the parish still owns these facilities, on July 11, the People’s Committee of Binh Thanh district sent him a document to claim that the school now is the owner to these facilities and has the right to them.

In response, the priest said, “The city government made illegal decisions that flagrantly violated the parish’s legal rights and interests. The government also flouted land laws and regulations on ownership and usage of the property.” He added, “Religious organizations’ land is not to be traded, transferred under any circumstances.”

In communist Vietnam, it is not uncommon for the government to seize or forcibly grab lands belonging to the Catholic community, especially when the properties and land have potential commercial value.

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