‘Danger’ in Vietnam Church control
By Chris Hook
The jailed priest Fr Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly (pictured) became part of Vietnam’s modern history of struggle when he declared “religious freedom or death”, says colleague Fr Phan Van Loi.
Fr Ly may have used words similar to those employed by activists and revolutionaries, but he added “something new, distinctive and more thoughtful”, Fr Loi said.
In a recent statement issued from his home diocese of Hue, Vietnam, Fr Loi said the way in which Vietnam’s Communist authorities controlled the practice of religion was a danger which had affected Vietnam’s society as a whole.
“Lying and pretending changed the substance of religion and this is the most dangerous thing the Communists have brought to the people of Vietnam,” he said.
Quoting an unnamed Russian writer, Fr Loi said: “Communism is not more an economic defeat than a mental deterioration, a spiritual evil.”
He said: “The situation of moral deterioration and loss of human conscience in the homeland today is a clear evidence.”
Fr Ly said he had used the slogan as “an appeal and as a warning”.
“Without freedom of religion, the human society will turn to animal species, human morality will become the herd’s morality,” Fr Loi said. “The ultimatum is to bear our death for the recovery of all just values.”
His statement comes in the wake of criticisms of Vietnam by the US State Department in its annual report on International Religious Freedom.
The report said police “routinely questioned persons who advocate dissident religious views and arbitrarily detained persons based on their religious beliefs and practices”.
It cited instances of religious repression – including the jailing of Fr Ly – and said US Embassy representatives met regularly with religious leaders.
“The US Ambassador raised religious freedom problems with senior cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister,” the report said.