A Vietnamese lawyer decried what he described as the silence of the government, Church leaders, and the media in his country on the killing of a Dominican priest in a mission area last week.
“Since both the Vietnamese government and the Church leaders have been quite silent in the murder of Father Joseph Tran Ngoc Thanh, OP, I like to share additional information and hope everyone shares it widely,” said lawyer Le Quoc Quan in a statement forwarded to LiCAS News.
Father Thanh was reported to have been killed in a knife attack at a mission in Dak Mot, about 40 miles northwest of Kon Tum in Vietnam on Saturday, January 29.
He was said to be hearing confessions before the last Mass of the evening when the attack happened, a Facebook post on Ordo Praedicatorum said.
The Diocese of Kon Tum later reported that the priest was killed in his house, and that a suspect has been arrested
In his detailed statement, lawyer Le Quoc Quan said Father Thanh was hearing confession about 7:15 p.m. when attacked by the suspect, Kien Nguyen, inside the confessional in the chapel.
“As Father Thanh was administering the sacrament of reconciliation, Kien rushed in and slashed [the priest’s] head twice with a machete,” read the lawyer’s report. “The priest collapsed and everyone screamed.”
“At that moment, a choir director Brother Phan Van Giao, a Dominican friar, was tending to his choir in the chapel wing. Kien rushed over to slash him straight (to) the head, for the habit he was wearing,” added the report.
“The choir director raised a plastic chair to defend himself, the chair was split in half. The friar was so fearful for his life that he ran out toward the church’s aisle, Kien chased after him,” said the report.
The report said that hearing the chaos and the children screaming, Brother Giao came back and faced Kien.
“The friar was able to push off Kien’s arm … and put Kien in a choke hold. He held Kien so hard that both fell to the church’s brick floor. Parishioners rushed over, pressed Kien down and held him captive there,” read the report.
Search for truth and justice
Nguyen Van Kien belongs to the Kinh ethnic group, the largest in Vietnam. He is single and a Catholic, although the lawyer’s report said “nobody ever sees him attending Mass.”
Prior to the attack, Kien reportedly has been trying to prevent his mother from going to Mass, warning that “If you go to Mass today, there will be a homicide, someone will have to die.”
The mother reportedly ignored the warning and attended Mass.
Kien has a younger brother who has just been released from prison. “It was said that his brother only served three years even though he was responsible for a manslaughter charge,” said the report.
In his statement, lawyer Le Quoc Quan decried the lack of news reports on the incident in state-owned media.
“There was a murder, and the consequences were horrifying, and the perpetrator was already caught. So, what’s the deal that the murder has yet to be reported? Aren’t we tortured by conscience?” he wrote.
He also called on Church leaders to speak out about the killing.
“As a Catholic who loves priests and the Church, I know that the Church is very merciful, doesn’t judge anyone, and always forgives all sinful acts of men,” said the lawyer.
“However, the conscience of the faithful calls for and demands a voice to be spoken out, a truth to be told in order for people to understand the matter and justice to be served in this case,” he said.
The lawyer said the murder of a priest is “a very big deal.”
“All those who love the truth and justice are waiting for a word from both the State and the Church, demanding that the perpetrator pay the price commensurate with the crime he committed, and not expecting it swept under the rug,” said lawyer Le Quoc Quan.