Vietnamese Bishop protests church demolition
A mass number of Catholics has been gathering at a make-ship church at Dak Jak, Kontum for days to protect it from the risk of being taken down by local authorities.
The Dak Jak parish of Kontum diocese, in Vietnam's Central Highlands, was established in 1965 but so far parishioners have never been approved of constructing a "real church" despite the fact that the number of Catholics in the region has swollen to around 6000 with a variety of ethnic minorities - Ba Na, Gia Rai, Giẻ Triêng, Xơ Đăng - thanks to the dedication and endless work of religious men and women, priests and the bishop of Kontum, Mgsr Michael Hoang Duc Oanh. Together they have been navigating their religious ship in rough waters under strict and harsh control of the local government.
Bishop Michael Hoang Duc Oanh states that his diocese has been repeatedly petitioning for a governmental approval to build a church in the area with the capacity to hold thousands at mass and church related activities, but all to no avail.
On Jan 7, 2015 the head of Kontum’s Interior Department had announced an order to "expel" Fr. Dominic Tran Van Vu the pastor, and to dismantle the make-ship church built by many poor Catholics to gather for mass celebration, religious studies and social activities.
The announcement came as a shock to the determined, devout Catholics of ethnic minorities of central Vietnam who are well- known and admired for their fierce loyalty to their faith.
On Jan 13, realizing the abnormal presence of uniformed police as well as local officials at the site of the church, people rushed to the scene in thousands, uniformly voiced their concern to the authorities on their plan to take down the church. For 2 straight days, the protest went on without any sign of dispersion that Fr. Dominic Vu had to be summoned to be mediator for the government - parishioners talk scheduled to take place at noon on the same date. However, as people gathering at the meeting on Jan 15, local officials never showed up to engage in the dialogue they themselves had set up.
Parishioners now fear that local authorities would soon demolish their church by force.Đặng Tự Do