Published: 16:00 GMT Daylight Time - Tuesday 17 July 2012
Christians in Vietnam defy authorities’ threats in protest marches
Country/Region: Vietnam, South and East Asia
More than 10,000 Christians in Vietnam took part in protest marches for religious freedom, in defiance of the authorities, who had tried to intimidate them with tanks, threats and violent thugs.
The peaceful demonstrations across Nghe An province on Sunday (15 July) were in response to a series of violent attacks against Christians in the region. In one of the most egregious incidents, hired thugs beat ministers and members of a congregation as they gathered for a service on 1 July; one woman suffered a fractured skull and dozens of others were injured.
The protestors called for an end to persecution and anti-Christian propaganda in the state media, and respect for religious freedom.
On the eve of the marches, in a bid to deter Christians from taking part, the authorities deployed armoured vehicles outside the bishop’s residence; police and hired thugs were sent to patrol the streets and make threats.
Individuals were also targeted in the days leading up to the demonstration. A prominent Christian journalist was stabbed in his back and arm in an attack by thugs in his home on 8 July.
In their newspaper, The Security of the Capital, the police threatened to detain a high profile Christian lawyer, who has often defended human rights and the rights of the Church. On Saturday morning they made an unsuccessful attempt to carry out this threat in a raid of the lawyer’s office.
The police also blocked the ferries to the meeting points for the marches, but this did not stop the Christians from reaching the appointed destinations; thousands set out the night before, walking for many miles, to get there on time.
In solidarity with the Christians in Nghe An province, those in other parts of the country also held sit-ins and marches, carrying placards and banners displaying slogans such as “religious freedom is a right” and “we are determined to protect the Church”.
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