Vietnam: Priest thrown from hospital window

Among the casualties was a priest, now in a coma, who was beaten and thrown from the second floor of a hospital by gangs allegedly acting on police instructions.

The Catholic News Agency reported that armed police attacked a group of priests and lay people, arresting seven, on 20 July as they tried to erect a cross and altar at the ruins of Tam Toa Church in the coastal city of Dong Hoi. Police reportedly used stun guns, tear gas and batons.

On 26 July, Father Paul Dinh Phu Nguyen was attacked by a mob, including plain-clothed police, on his way to celebrate mass at Tam Toa. He was later visited in hospital by Father Peter Nguyen The Binh, who was attacked by a gang and thrown from an upstairs window of the hospital. He is believed to be in a critical condition.

The Vietnamese government plans to build a war memorial on the site of Tam Toa church. In response to the violent police clampdowns, Catholics all over Vietnam have protested and called for the release of those arrested. These protests have reportedly triggered further violence against Catholics by police and gangs acting on police orders.

According to the Catholic News Agency, the authorities in Dong Hoi are openly trying to create a “no Catholic zone” in the city. Hundreds of Catholic families have now fled due to growing anti-Catholic sentiment.

The Diocese of Vinh, in which Tam Toa is situated, has sent an open letter to the government requesting the release of those who have been arrested, the return of liturgical property and medical care for those wounded in attacks.

CSW sources have reported that tension has been rising for some time between the government and both Catholic and Protestant communities, regarding confiscated church property. CSW reported in April 2008 on appeals against the government’s failure to return property to the Catholic Church in Vietnam and the Evangelical Church of Vietnam South (ECVN-S).

CSW’s Advocacy Director, Tina Lambert, said, “We are gravely concerned about the reports of violence and growing anti-Catholic sentiment in Vietnam.

"We continue to fully support the Catholic Church’s claim to church property and ask the Vietnamese government to allow the church access to rebuild Tam Toa.

"We call on the international community to make urgent representations to the Vietnamese government to ensure that a peaceful and just solution is found as a matter of urgency.”