Religious Persecution in Vietnam Worsens

Christians and Buddhists Alike Feel the Pressure

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HANOI, Vietnam, MAR. 22, 2001 (ZENIT.orgFIDES).- Religious persecution, unleashed by the Communist regime, is causing acute tensions in Vietnam, the Vatican missionary agency Fides reports.

On Monday, elderly Buddhist Nguyen Thi Thu set herself on fire following the arrest of Le Quang Liem, leader of Hoa Hao Buddhism.

«The suicide in a village of the Vinh Long province, in the Mekong River delta, at the end of a demonstration for religious liberty, is a sign of the growing desperation in Vietnamese society,» Fides reports.

According to the exiled Hoa Hao Buddhist Association, the elderly woman´s last words were: «Religious liberty for Vietnam!»

Hoa Hao Buddhism, with 4 million Vietnamese adherents, is officially recognized by Hanoi. However, the government greatly mistrusts this organization, which for many years has engaged in political opposition, calling for liberty and respect of human rights.

«This is demonstrated by the arbitrary arrest of leader Le Quang Liem, 82, arrested by the police and detained for 24 hours between March 17-18,» Fides says. «The monk suffered mistreatment and blows, as did his daughter, who protested against the police. The incident coincides with the 54th anniversary of the disappearance of Huynh Phu So, prophet of Hoa Hao Buddhism, kidnapped by the Communists in 1947.»

Meanwhile, Catholic priest Tadeus Nguyen Van Ly and two of his collaborators remain under «administrative vigilance.» Father Van Ly was arrested for denouncing the religious repression in Vietnam before a U.S. congressional committee.

Father Van Ly urged the U.S. Congress not to ratify the trade agreement with Vietnam, signed last July, because of the constant abuse of human rights in the country. The military daily newspaper Quan Doi Nhan described the priest as a «traitor of the people.» Father Van Ly has been under strict police control since his release in 1992, after 10 years of imprisonment.

Also, minority groups in the Central Highlands have complained about encroachment on their ancestral land by the Vietnamese majority, as well as government restrictions on the practice of their Protestant religion.

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