“The incident happened at 2.45pm on 3 November, when hundreds of police, militiamen, professionally trained dogs and hired thugs, along with state-run television crews, attacked our people and ransacked our monastery,” wrote Fr Joseph Nguyen Van Phuong in his statement released today.
Fr John Luu Ngoc Quynh, Bro.Vincent Vu Van Bang, and Bro. Nguyen Van Tang were among several who were physically and verbally assaulted when they tried to stop the thugs from smashing the monastery's gate. The attack seemed to be premeditated since the church was deserted, as usual, during the noon hours.
After getting inside the monastery, the thugs attacked Fr. Pham Xuan Loc who tried to try to stand in their way. Church bells were rung to summon help. The attackers withdrew when thousands of Catholics and nearby parish priests rushed to the site of the violence.
This is the third time local government forces have attacked and ransacked Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery.
On Sunday, 21 September, 2008 the monastery's chapel was ransacked with statues destroyed, and books torn to pieces. In addition, "the gang yelled out slogans threatening to kill priests, religious, faithful and even our archbishop,” wrote Fr Matthew Vu Khoi Phung, Superior of Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery in a protest letter sent to People's Committee of Hanoi City and police agencies of Hanoi and Dong Da district, referring to then Archbishop of Hanoi Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet.
In response to his complaint, on 11 November, a second attack came by an even larger crowd of thugs. A stern message was sent to the vulnerable religious order and parish who were long considered as one of the biggest "thorn in the flesh" of the government.
For years, Redemptorist priests and their faithful have requested the return of their land illegally seized by the state.
On 6 January 2008, parishioners protested over a State plan to sell their land to private estate developers. After a series of attacks, arrests and trials of parishioners, the government hastily converted the land into a public park.
Another piece of land in dispute, which is the main focus now, is Lake Ba Giang. Initially, authorities planned to sell piece by piece to private estate developers. The plan has been faced with relentless protest and criticism by the religious community. Now, the government has announced a plan to turn it into a wasted water treatment plant, which threatens the environment where tens of thousands of parishioners live and worship.
The government seems to be resorting to openly persecuting Christians now. This latest attack was preceded by a month-long campaign on the State media. They have also installed electronic megaphones at strategic positions around the church in order to disrupt Masses and other services at the monastery.