GNsP (August 22, 2015) – Sai Gon – Yesterday morning, Aug. 21, Cần Giờ district mobilized security forces, traffic polices, local polices and other forces to obstruct Religious Dignitaries in the Interfaith Council on their way to the Cần Giờ church, located in Cần Thạnh town, Cần Giờ district. Rev. Joseph Đinh Hữu Thoại, coordinator of the Interfaith Council of Vietnam said that not too long after the car passed through ferry Bình Khánh, 4 or 5 traffic polices stopped the vehicle, accusing the person sitting in the front for not wearing a seatbelt. In fact, Pastor Nguyễn Mạnh Hùng, administering the Chuồng Bò church, sat in the front and he put the seatbelt on immediately after getting on the car. After Pastor Nguyễn Mạnh Hùng got out of the car to prove his compliance with the law, the police let the group go.
It should be kept in mind that yesterday was Friday, so traffic on the Bình Khánh – Cần Giờ direction was very light, therefore usually no traffic police stand guard on Friday. Nevertheless, there were many traffic police, as well as local police and some in plain-clothes standing nearby.
The vehicle transporting Dignitaries resumed moving. Near the crossroad Đồng Hòa – Cần Thạnh, traffic police again stopped the car. This time, the excuse was “someone reported a 16 seats-vehicle that caused an accident and left the scene”. This is a well-known excuse the police often make up when they want to stop someone on the road without following appropriate legal procedures. However, according to a Dignitary, the police were aware that their actions were questionable and wrongful, so they had a polite conversation with the driver. When a Dignitary stepped out of the vehicle, they let the group go.
When the Dignitaries arrived at Cần Giờ church, there were around 20 people sitting at the entrance leading to the residence area of Redemptorist priests, right at the front of the church. The crowd immediately became agitated and started making noised.
Rev. Joseph Hồ Đắc Tâm, Pastor of the parish greeted the visitors. Representatives of the authorities questioned Father Tâm about his refusal to receive them. Father Tâm explained clearly that “Since yesterday (Thursday) till now, there have been many phone calls that aim to harass me and persuade me not to receive the delegation of Religious Dignitaries. How can I not greet my confreres and their friends?” Father Tâm continued: “You are here only to convince me to do the same thing, so I refuse to meet you!”
After the Dignitaries went in a room to take a rest, the authorities sent a “spontaneous crowd” to cause troubles. They rushed in the monastery without permission. When a Redemptorist requested them to leave, they replied that this is a common place and they had the right to enter. One person said “I am a Christian”. A parishioner never says to a priest “I am a Christian” (but Catholic). Father Tâm asked “What is your baptised name?” This person then said “I have the right to be here.” Father Tâm responded “You are not a Catholic”. This person introduced himself with the name Nhã, a local resident living nearby, and continued “My parents donated to the construction of this church, so I have the right to know who come here. Whoever comes here must report to us.” He was aggressive. Father Tâm commented “Why are you looking like you want to fight?” He immediately said “You are a priest, why are you talking about fighting? If you want to fight, I will fight you right away.” He continued arguing.
The Redemptorits managed to close one door. While they were closing the other door, the crowd rushed in to prevent them from closing it. Then a male government official whose shirt was tucked in his pants arbitrarily opened the door bolt and let the crowd in.
The Religious Dignitaries in the West region (Trà Vinh and Vĩnh Long) were also prevented from visiting Father Tâm and the Cần Giờ church.
Despite the threats and problems, the Dignitaries were able to carry on with their visit. They talked with the Redemptorist priests and had a lunch together.
The Dignitaries of the Interfaith Council of Vietnam meet each other every three months to reflect on spiritual and religious matters of each religion, how to guide followers and encourage fellow-worshipers to live according to their faiths, contribute to the society and care about injustice. The Dignitaries commemorated Mr. Lê Quang Liêm, co-founder of the Interfaith Council of Vietnam, the Chairman of Hòa Hảo Buddhist, who passed away recently. In according with a request from the Hòa Hảo Buddhist, the Interfaith Council of Vietnam promoted Mr. Lê Văn Sóc, Vicechairman to replace Mr. Lê Quang Liêm, in compliance with the Council’s code.
The Dignitaries of the Interfaith Council of Vietnam sent their thanks to Vietnamese religious dignitaries around the world, especially the American Interfaith Council for their invitation to establish affiliation. Venerable Thích Không Tánh, Unified Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam said he is very delighted. However, we would ask you to continue observing and supporting us, so you can understand our principles and activities before we decide to create a bond.
The Dignitaries also discussed pastor Nguyễn Công Chính’s sufferings, illness and religious oppression in prison. Pastor Chính’s messages to the Interfaith Council of Vietnam were conveyed in full.
During lunch and the meeting, the Cần Giờ police district forced their way to the dining table and the coffee table to videotape each person. Although they were repeatedly reminded that the guests were entitled to privacy protected by the constitution and law, the police officers disregarded the law and continued causing troubles.
Pastor Nguyễn Mạnh Hùng commented that this is “the fruitful results of Mr. Nguyễn Phú Trọng’s (the General Secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party) visit to the United States”. Words about improvements in human rights in Vietnam seem to be far from the truth.
Religious Dignitaries in the Interfaith Council at Cần Giờ Beach