Sisters in Hanoi and Saigon protest illegal construction on their land
On Wednesday May 09, 2018, dozens of sisters of Saint Paul marched through downtown Hà Nội before staging a protest for hours in front of the office of Hoàn Kiếm District’s People’s Committee to denounce the illegal construction of a commercial complex in their monastery.
A day before, the construction at the site has been resumed after a stalemate for quite some time due to the protest of Cardinal Peter Nguyễn Văn Nhơn, archbishop of Hà Nội. In an attempt to prevent the resumption of construction works, a sister tried to block the entrance of the monastery. But she was beaten unconscious by a group of gang members sent to the site to support the workers.
Founded in 1883, the Congregation of Vietnamese Sisters of Saint Paul has its headquarters in downtown Hanoi. The building was confiscated almost in its entirety by the Communist government in 1954, a small portion was returned to the nuns over time in which they opened a dispensary for the poor, a residence for orphaned children and provided shelter for girls. Now the government has approved and hastily begun demolition, to construct a five-story building.
Since 2011, the Archdiocese of Hanoi, legitimate owner of the structure, on the top of which a cross is still visible, has repeatedly voiced its protest the violation of the legitimate rights of Catholics. The construction at the site came to a halt. But now, after a vicious against the Korean cult, at times, extended to all religions to promote the hate between religious and non-religious, the city authorities feel that it’s the right time to resume their construction project.
Down to the South, in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known Saigon), communist authorities are once again demand the Congregation of the Lovers of the Holy Cross in Thủ Thiêm District to move out of their monastery to clear way for the building of new urban area projects.
The nuns have been in Vietnam since their foundation in 1840. After the fall of the former Saigon, with the unification of the country and the seizure of power by the Communists in the North, the sisters gave – in a signed accord dating to December 5, 1975 - the use of primary schools for the benefit of the Department of Education of Ho Chi Minh City.
The document clearly states that the archdiocese of Saigon grants the government the use of the premises for the 1975-76 school year for educational purposes only, while the property remains in the hands of the Catholic Church. When being used for purposes other than this, the agreement also states, “both sides must make clear their consent.”
Since September 5, 2011 the schools have been closed and in one of these (the elementary school Thủ Thiêm in District 2) local authorities allocated government offices and a local police station. They also started the paperwork for the transfer of ownership which amounts to expropriation of structures from the religious.
During the last 12 years, local authorities have repeatedly put pressures on the nuns to move out of their historical convent, the oldest monastery in Saigon, to clear way for the building of new urban area projects. This week, the pressure reaches its peak in an anti-religion atmosphere caused by state-run media.
Currently, in the Thủ Thiêm monastery, there are 610 sisters consist of 381 nuns with perpetual vows, 98 nuns with temporary vows, 33 novices, and about 100 postulants.