Vietnam denies four churches pulled down in south
HANOI - Communist Vietnam on Thursday
denied a report that armed officials in a southern province had
destroyed four churches last month and threatened to pull down
any remaining places of Christian worship.
The U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a
charity group, said in a statement obtained by Reuters that the
four churches in Binh Phuoc province were pulled down in July.
``The authorities have promised to destroy all places of
worship,'' it said. Separate religious sources in Vietnam
confirmed that three churches had been pulled down last month
in the province, which borders Cambodia.
Le Sy Vuong Ha, deputy director of the Foreign Ministry Press
Department, vehemently rejected the CSW report.
``This information released by Christian Solidarity Worldwide...
is completely untrue and ill-intended,'' Ha told a news briefing.
Vietnam's constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and the
climate for worship has improved in recent years. Last
weekend, more than 100,000 Vietnamese Catholics at the
central Vietnam town of La Vang marked the end of year-long
events commemorating the 200th anniversary of an apparition
of the Virgin Mary.
But the state still tightly controls religious hierarchies.
Some Western governments have also privately expressed
concern at what they say appears to be Hanoi's attempt to
clamp down on Protestantism, especially in Vietnam's remote
Ha said all legal religious sites were protected by law.
However, he said some people in Binh Phuoc had built homes
without permission, and local officials had forced the residents
to clear the land when they refused to pull down the dwellings
The CSW said one of the destroyed churches, which was used
by an ethnic group in the region, had been built without official
It did not say if the other three had been built without
permission -- which is required to erect any building in Vietnam
-- but added that local authorities had knocked back requests
to repair places of worship.
``Numerous requests to repair or rebuild churches, which by
now are old and crumbling, have been ignored or denied,'' the
CSW statement said.
Reuters - August 19, 1999.