The government of Dak Nong commune (Ngoc Hoi district, Kon Tum province) continues to prevent priests and parishioners of the Phaolo parish from performing the ritual for the third consecutive week in an effort to prevent the religious activities of 20 family in this parish.
According to some videos provided by parishioners, at about 5:30 p.m. on March 22, during the Mass conducted by Father Francis Xavier Le Tien at the parish chapel, the police and militia together with the people in plain clothes surrounded the clerk.
A parishioner in Dak Lak parish who witnessed the incident told Radio Free Asia (RFA) on condition of anonymity for security reasons:
“When our priest was at the ceremony, while reading the good news, the vice chairman of the communal People’s Committee brought in the local policemen and militiamen, cursing loudly from outside the door.
They forced him to stop the ceremony and then asked the police to forcefully take him out, but the priest resisted and continued to read the good news to the end. Then one female official came to close his book took it away.”
In one video, a man in plain clothes introduced himself as Thach – the commune’s vice chairman pointed his finger at the priest and asks “who is this man” and asked him to stop the ceremony and go to the commune People’s Committee for clarification. However, the priest continued to perform his ritual.
Then, a woman, identified by the parishioners as a vice chairwomen of the communal People’s Committee, approached the altar of worship, folded the bible the priest was reading, hugged herself and left, but was opposed by the parishioners. Another plainclothes man turned off the lights of the chapel during the chanting of the faithful.
Witnesses said the authorities asked everyone to disperse but no one agreed. The incident only ended at 8 pm when Father Le Tien agreed to sign the minute and left the scene to return to Dak Jak parish. Only then did the government people leave the area.
This is the third ceremony in a row that local authorities have prevented the celebration of Mass by priests and parishioners of the Phaolo parish. The previous two times also happened similar, even the police also demanded to confiscate motorbikes of parishioners but were strongly opposed.
The reporter called the Chairman of the People’s Committee of Kon Tum province and the leadership of the People’s Committee of Ngoc Hoi district to ask about what happened in the Phaolo parish, but no one answered the phone. We have emailed them but have not received a response.
Another parishioner told RFA that the Phaolo family consisted of 20 Kinh families from two communes of Dak Nong and Dak Dung. This parish was established in 2017 but is still not recognized by the local government which always tries to prevent priests and parishioners from celebrating Mass every Wednesday night.
The parish has built a wooden chapel, but several times local officials threatened to tear it down, one parishioner said.
The Kon Tum provincial government has for years sought to prevent the free practice of religion. Victims include Catholics and followers of the Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ and some other independent religious groups.
In early December last year, the US Department of State included Vietnam in the group of countries on its Special Watch List for religious freedom. If after a while Vietnam still does not improve, that is the basis for being assigned to the List of Special Concerns (CPC) which is the highest level for countries that violate the right to religious freedom.