Worthy News Asia Service with Worthy News Asia Correspondent Santosh Digal reporting from Manila
HANOI, VIETNAM (Worthy News)-- Amid protests against reported church destructions, the city of Hanoi has ordered one of its districts to stop construction work on land claimed by the Catholic church, Worthy News monitored Thursday, May 7.
In a statement, Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung said the Hanoi People's Committee has asked agencies to "stop the implementation of the project and construction works on the land of the Ba Giang lake," French News Agency AFP reported.
It came after several protests, including a prayer vigil of some 1,000 Catholics to protest the project on land that the Tai Ha Redemptorist parish church claims to have owned since 1928. The move was seen as a surprise turnaround by Communist authorities who since March demolished at least one historic church building in the Central Highlands, Christians said.
Government work crews reportedly destroyed a Protestant church building of Evangelical Church of Vietnam (South), or ECVN(S), in the area of Banmethuot om March 11.
Authorities had confiscated the church building in 1975 after the Communist victory and had removed its cross, said Compass Direct News, a Christian news agency investigating cases of persecution. Following the latest demolition, the ECVN(S) said in a resolution that its "Executive Council...is extremely upset and in deep sympathy with the 135,000 believers in Dak Lak province."
Yet, Christians have also reported more positive developments in Communist-run Vietnam, which was criticized this year by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom for it alleged poor record on religious rights.
Last month, granted a rare permission to unregistered house church groups to hold a large, public Easter-related service with over 15,000 people gathering at Tao Dan Stadium, Christians said. The only other such event granted to unregistered groups was an open-air meeting during Christmas of 2007 sponsored by the Vietnam Evangelical Fellowship, a house church umbrella group.
Some 1,200 people indicated they had decided to follow Christ, Compass Direct News reported, citing local sources.