In Vietnam, the freedom of Catholics once again found its limits: a few weeks before Christmas, the Communist power intervened brutally in order to prevent the faithful from installing the traditional nativity scene in a poor district of the capital.
Lộc Hưng is a parish located in a poor district of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. It was there that many families from the north took refuge, fleeing the Communist advance during the Vietnam War. Last January, 300 police officers dispatched by municipal authorities and the People’s Committee of the Tân Bình district demolished several houses belonging to the Christians of the parish. They came with bulldozers. The land, which belongs to the diocese of Saigon, is coveted by the Communists.
The Catholic faithful have since resisted and are trying to assert their rights. They continue to pray the rosary in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary located opposite the public garden of Lộc Hưng. But on December 8, 2019, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a new brutal repression fell on them.
A group of worshipers had gathered to build the traditional Christmas nativity scene when local communist authorities intervened to stop it. At around 9:00 a.m., plainclothes officers, assisted by a gang of young thugs, demolished the wooden scaffolding.
Residents protested, invoking the right of Catholics to freedom of religion. But this right, although asserted by word of mouth, is just a deception. Vietnam remains one of the most communist countries in the world, next to China or North Korea, and ahead of Cuba.
When the Nativity Scene Disturbs Social Order
The faithful did not lose heart, and returned to work in the afternoon. One of the witnesses reported, “by 3:30 p.m., we had gathered to pray and prepare to set up the nativity scene. After praying, a large force consisting of various Ward 6 agencies showed up to destroy [it]. They beat us, drove [us] into corners.”
One of the women present, Mrs. Cao said that she had been subjected to violence: “I am 58 years old and I have really weak hearing. But I was beaten in the face and trampled [upon]. I felt a brick from somewhere hit my foot. It was so painful so I picked up the brick and threw it away and began to flee. That’s when they arrested me and accused me of throwing the brick [at them] which is an administrative violation.”
The political police, to justify their intervention, described the faithful present “as accused of inciting a ‘mass gathering to disrupt social order.’”
Ultimately, it is not only in France that the state intervenes in order to have Christmas nativity scenes removed from the public spaces... Whether it is based on communism or on secularism, the result is a social order based on practical atheism and the rejection of God.