Bishop of Parramatta Vincent Long OFM Conv has issued a statement of solidarity to hundreds of people made suddenly homeless after forced land seizure by the Vietnamese Communist government.
More than 100 homes, including a home for war veterans run by the Redemptorist order, were evacuated and bulldozed by state officials in southern Vietnam on 4 and 8 January with little or no warning.
Media reports said state-run Tuoi tre newspaper quoted district officials who said the 112 houses were illegally built and that the government planned to use the plot for schools and public buildings.
The area in Ho Chi Minh City is a predominantly Catholic area attached to the parish of Loc Hung and has been “the home and work centre of many families” said Bishop Long in his 11 January message published on the Diocese of Parramatta website and sent to the Vietnamese Catholic Bishops Conference, Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and the Australian Embassy in Vietnam
“Generations of people migrated from the communist North at the partitioning of Vietnam in 1954. They are mostly low-income families, students, former prisoners of conscience and amputee-veterans of the South Vietnamese Army,” wrote the Vietnamese-born bishop who is chair of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Commission for Social Justice – Mission and Service.
“The authorities often resort to the use of force to seize properties and land in places which have potential commercial value.
“This has been a pattern of behaviour on the part of the communist government in Vietnam ironically since the so-called “doi moi” (reform) era, as demonstrated in many incidents throughout the country.
“The latest land grabbing exercise on the part of the Communist Government has caused extensive damage, destruction and hurt to hundreds of families. Many have been left homeless, their livelihoods ruined and their lives irreparably damaged.
“The reporting of the incident by the state-owned media does not accord with what happened on the ground as testified by the victims. Many of them are left at the mercy of the elements and the support of religious groups such as the Redemptorist Fathers and fellow parishioners.”
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To the affected people in Loc Hung, Bishop Long wrote of his “deep solidarity” during “the incredible ordeal that has been forced upon you”.
“I pray that you remain committed in your faith and your search for justice,” he added.
He urged local authorities to “refrain from acts of violence, terror and repression against the people towards whom they have a duty to protect and assist” and called on the Vietnamese Government at all levels to respect the human rights of its citizens, and for “people of good will, both inside and outside Vietnam to support the victims of the land seizure in their struggle for justice and dignity”.