Published: 09:00 GMT Daylight Time - Friday 24 August 2012
Police in Vietnam raid Christian-run leper colony; residents “terrorised”
Country/Region: South and East Asia, Vietnam
Police in Vietnam raided a Christian-run leper colony, replacing Christian symbols with a picture of Ho Chi Minh, who established Communism in the country.
|Many Vietnamese lepers live in remote parts of the Central Highlands
CC BY-SA 3.0 / DXLINH
Officers entered the village, which has around 160 residents including leper patients and volunteer helpers, in Gia Kai province, and ordered them to remove the church bell and knock down the bell tower.
Other religious symbols were removed or destroyed, including the cross from the chapel. A picture of Ho Chi Minh was placed inside as a symbol of Communist victory over the Christians.
One villager said that the residents felt “terrorised” by the abuse and threats to which they were subjected during the raid, and many have not been able to eat and sleep as a result.
According to official figures, there are at least 18,000 people with leprosy in Vietnam. Many of them are Christians, who live in remote areas of the Central Highlands.
The Church is at the forefront of caring for lepers and their families, who face much discrimination and are largely left to fend for themselves by society at large.
The Communist authorities in Vietnam are extremely hostile to Christians, whom they perceive as a threat to national security.
Ho Chi Minh led the Viet Minh independence movement in the 1940s, establishing the Communist-ruled Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945. The French colonial powers were defeated by the Viet Minh in 1954 but subsequent negotiations divided the country, with only the north under Communist rule. The Viet Minh conquered the south in 1975, after Ho Chi Minh’s death, and renamed the capital, Saigon, Ho Chi Minh Cityin his honour.