HANOI, Vietnam, JULY 28, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Catholics organized protests in several Vietnamese cities after two priests and other laypeople were savagely beaten by police and thugs.
AsiaNews reported today that Father Paul Nguyen Dinh Phu and Father Peter Nguyen The Binh are in critical condition after the attacks.
The former has broken ribs and head injuries, and the latter was beaten into a coma and then thrown from a 2nd floor window.
The Diocese of Vinh released a statement condemning the police violence against the priests and other Catholics over the past week.
On July 20, hundreds of Catholics were attacked at the church of Tam Toa, where they had gathered to erect a cross and altar.
The 120-year-old church, damaged after an American bombing in 1968, was seized in 1996 by the government to create a “U.S. war crimes memorial.”
The people were too poor to rebuild their church immediately, but they still regard it as the seat of their parish and come together there for ceremonies.
After repeated requests for the return of the land, Bishop Paul-Marie Cao Dinh Thuyen of Vinh celebrated a Feb. 2 Mass at the parish, which was attended by 14 priests and thousands of faithful.
Last week, when the faithful gathered again to bring a cross and an altar, police launched tear gas bombs at them, and then began to beat them with sticks and stun guns.
Many were injured, and others were carried away in police vans.
Prayer and appeal
A protest was planned for Sunday, joining people in different cities to denounce this violence and request the return of imprisoned Catholics.
Some 500,000 people, along with 170 priests and 420 religious, joined in the peaceful march, praying the rosary through the streets of cities in the Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh regions.
Father Dinh Phu Nguyen was on his way to the Tam Toa parish that morning, to celebrate Mass along with five other priests before the demonstration, when he was attacked.
He had been trying to intervene to protect three women being beaten by a group of men.
He said that the gang recognized him as a priest and turned to beat him “with brutality” instead, while some 30 uniformed policemen watched.
A group of laypeople came to save him and take him to the hospital.
The diocese issued a public complaint to People’s Committee of Quang Binh province, and asked Father Nguyen The Binh, the pastor of a nearby parish, to visit the hospitalized priest, along with the vice governor, Tran Cong Thuat.
However, the gang who beat the first priest was surrounding the hospital, armed with clubs.
Thuat fled, and the thugs attacked the abandoned pastor, beating him unconscious and then throwing him from an upper level of the building.
Protests against this violence have arisen in many cities. Monday evening in Ho Chi Minh City, over 2,000 Catholics attended a prayer vigil to appeal to the Vietnamese government to stop this persecution.
Last Friday, the Vinh Diocese publicized a statement calling for the government to “stop immediately the distortion of truth, the defamation of religion, and the instigation of hatred between Catholics and non-Catholics.”