Thursday, July 16, 2009

Catholics fined for having large families

Catholics in Vietnam face a conflict between church policy which prohibits most forms of contraception and government policy, which punishes families with more than two children. For peasants, it appears that the punishment comes in the form of progressively harsher fines of rice. For example, a 44-year-old woman from Huong Toan village near Hue said she was fined 300 kilograms of rice for her third child, 600 kilograms for her fourth, 900 kilograms for her fifth and 2,000 kilograms for her sixth. Since the family makes a profit of only 700 kilograms or rice annually, the fines hit hard. The parish priest, Fr. Joseph Nguyen Van Chanh, says 90% of the Catholics in the parish agree to pay the fines rather than violate church teaching. He is asking for donations to support local people with large families.

Vietnam has a population of close to 86 million people with an average annual increase of 1.12 million.

Source: UCAN News/Indian Catholic, July 16.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Six more activists arrested

Vietnamese novelist Nguyen Xuan Nghia and five other pro-democracy advocates have been charged with defaming government leaders, Vietnam state media reported Tuesday. The six, who have been detained since September 2008, are accused of hanging anti-government banners on Haiphong bridges and bridges of the neighboring province of Hai Duong, and then posting photos of the banners on internet.

Nghia (age 60) is also accused of writing 57 articles between 2007 and his arrest last year attacking the Vietnamese Communist Party and its leaders. and of belonging to the banned "Bloc 8406", a pro-democracy group founded in 2006 by jailed priest Fr. Nguyen Van Linh.

Sources: Associated Press July 14; Lao Dong July 15; Thanh Nien July 15; see also statement of the Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sept. 26, 2008.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Foreign Ministry defends Fr. Ly's imprisonment

Vietnam Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Dung defended the 2007 trial and conviction of Fr. Nguyen Van Ly in a July 9 Hanoi press briefing. He said that Fr. Ly was sentenced (to eight years) "not for any religious reason or his political views;" and that his trial was "public and his rights at the court were protected in accordance with Vietnamese law." A July 1 letter by 37 U.S. senators, led by Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) called for Fr. Ly's immediate release and described his trial as "seriously flawed." Vietnam is one of 13 countries named as a "country of particular concern" by the independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom because of this and other recent arrests of religious people in Vietnam.

Sources: Reuters, July 9; Voice of Vietnam July 9; New York Times July 1; Barbara Boxer press release [text of Senators' letter] July 1; U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom 2009 report on Vietnam.