Nuns from the Sisters of Cross Lovers from faraway Saigon, accompanied by dozens of lay Catholics, were beaten by plain clothes police at the gateway of Dong Chiem on Feb. 24. The sisters suffered from minor injuries but their tour guide, a Hanoi Catholic volunteer, had to be hospitalized at Viet Duc hospital due to more severe injuries.
After Dong Chiem incident made headlines around the world following the government's demolition of a crucifix standing atop a small mountain on Jan 6, life at this poor farming Catholic village has never been back the way it was before that fateful day. Although the concrete crucifix had been blown up and the substitute bamboo crosses had been removed by coercion, the parishioners and the priests are still being under scrutiny of police's surveillance and threats.
On Monday, Jan. 25, state media reported the withdrawal of hundreds of police out of Dong Chiem “in order to restore normalcy in life there.” However, local parish source has repeatedly warned the presence of a large number of plain-clothes police who are ready to assault any outsiders trying to get in, making the parish virtually under siege.
“They [plain-clothes police] are very aggressive,” said Fr. Joseph Nguyen from Hanoi. “Pilgrims to Dong Chiem have been greeted with harassment and assaults even on the occasion of Lunar New Year,” he added.
Indeed, on Feb. 19, a group of 10 faithful from Nam Du parish of the archdiocese of Hanoi had been attacked with rocks on their way home after attending the Eucharistic adoration at Dong Chiem church. The parishioners of Nam Du reported that police stoned them with big rocks causing light injuries to the passengers and severe damage to their rental car.
This has been observed as an outrageous violence against people of the Catholic faith, since tourists to the famous Huong Pagoda, a famous national tourist attraction located in the vicinity of Dong Chiem, are being protected and welcomed by the same local department of police.
The ongoing persecution at Dong Chiem has resulted in the tense relationship between the Church and the government.
Episcopal Conference of Vietnam in an unusual but decisive move has officially requested a rectification of a news episode concerning the Bishops of Vietnam, published by the State agency VNA and the official news agency of the Communist Party.
The two agencies had indeed published information that, on 29 January 2010, in which a representative of the Episcopal Conference had reportedly acted on behalf of the Conference in presenting the traditional New Year greetings and wishes to the Patriotic Front, an annex association of the Communist party responsible for mobilizing the masses.
The Episcopal stated that the individual, whose name was cited in the said reports, received neither any kind of engagement on the part of the bishops nor the request to transmit their New Year greetings to the organization in question.
Information called into question by bishops is also published in most of media outlet. Typically, it was found in the Voice of Vietnam electronic information bulletin.
Collectively or individually, the bishops have repeatedly expressed their concerns on one-sided presentation of the religious activities by the government media. Recently, after the distortion of the Pope’s speech to Vietnamese bishops during their ad Limina visit, bishops have pointed out that the Church-State dialogue could take place only in the truth.