Protesters trooped to a Catholic monastery in Vietnam to demand that the parish “return” the land to a commune in the country’s Thua Thien Hue province.
The “spontaneous” mob, which included police officers in plain clothes, gathered outside the Thien An monastery on Aug. 10 and 11, reported Radio Free Asia.
The report quoted Father Vo Van Giao saying that the protest came after the parish placed a memorial marker at the spot where a large cross was destroyed three years ago.
“Their goal was not to claim residential land…. They came because we set up a stone slab last week marking the history of the cross which was taken down,” said the priest.
He said authorities were “inciting” the people to hold a demonstration against the monastery.
“That was the main reason because actually we don’t involve ourselves in land disputes,” the priest said.
“Families living near the monastery had also received land to live on, so how can Thien An monastery occupy land belonging to Thuy Bang commune?” said the priest.
He said the monastery — situated near the city of Hue — had distributed land to the people in 1968 and 1975.
The priest said the people must petition the local authorities “if [they] actually lose their land,” instead of coming to the monastery “to protest like this.”
French missionaries founded Thien An monastery in June 1950.
In June 2017, alleged members of the police force attacked Thien An priests and lay people who were defending the destruction of a cross.
“They threw stones at the priests and beat three or four of them,” the Radio Free Asia report quoted a source who requested anonymity.
The source said attackers were accompanied by women and unidentified civilians who helped police to pull down the cross.
In June 2016, monastery head Nguyen Van Duc filed a petition before the national government over the alleged illegal seizure of church land after authorities barred the church to build an access road.
Sources claimed that the Vietnam communist government has been repressing the Catholic Church with “forced evictions, land grabs, and assaults by unidentified attackers.”
In its 2020 annual report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom found “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom” in Vietnam.
The country is also included in this year’s US list of Countries of Particular Concern for repression of faith.