DAILY CATHOLIC     THURSDAY     October 22, 1998     vol. 9, no. 207

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          VATICAN CITY (CWNews.com) - Four monks of the Vietnamese congregation of the Coredemptrix Mother are among the Catholics imprisoned by the Communist government of Vietnam, according to the Vatican news agency Fides, part of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Fides said it hoped that the visit of a special UN envoy on religious matters to Vietnam this week would encourage greater religious freedom in the country.

          The congregation of the Coredemptrix Mother was founded in 1953 by a Vietnamese priest, Father Domenica Marie Tran Dinh Thu and recently founded a province in the United States for Vietnamese who have fled to that country. The four monks of this congregation imprisoned in 1987 (Father John Bosco Pham Minh Tri, and Brothers John Mai Duke Chuong, Bernard Nguyen Viet Huan, and Michael Nguyen Van Thin) are charged with disturbing both "the unity of citizens" and national security, and engaging in antigovernment propaganda and terrorism.

          Fides said the congregation refutes these charges as false and as a consequence suffers from a policy of religious oppression carried out by the government. The arrest of the monks followed criticisms against the government made by certain members of the order.

          Abdelfattah Amor, UN envoy on religious intolerance matters, began a 10-day visit to Vietnam on Monday. The head of the Communist religious affairs commission declared that the government will allow Amor to meet with representatives of all religious groups present in the country and to talk with them in private. He said this openness proves that the news spread abroad on the situation of religions in Vietnam is "false and distorted."

          Amor will meet with two Buddhist monks imprisoned since 1995, charged with organizing, without authorization, aid for the people of an area of the country struck by floods. The visit of the United Nations observer is expected to lead to the release of 11 dissidents and known religious leaders, including two other monks of the Coredemptrix Mother order.

          But the imprisonments are not the only evidence of the lack of religious freedom in Vietnam, according to Fides. The government demands that groups apply for permits for all activities; removes religious leaders as heads of the organizations and checks the contents of homilies and speeches. The Communist government also passed a new law last July that says the State "respects religious freedom" but prohibits "superstitious practices" and bans the printing and distribution of Bibles, limits the movement of people (aimed at pilgrimages), and threatens legal actions against those who "use religion as a means of causing social disorders and opposition to the government." Amor will present his report to the United Nations at the beginning of next year.

Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

October 22, 1998       volume 9, no. 207


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