Catholic convent demolished in Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – The monastery of the Congregation of the Brothers of The Holy Family of Banam (Frères de la Sainte Famille de Banam) has been demolished by government order, a spokesman for the diocese of Long Xuyen, capital of An Giang province, reported. As a result of the sudden decision by local authorities the monastery shares the same fate of monastery of the Sisters of St Paul of Chartres in Vinh Long, Mekong Delta province.

Built in 1971 the two-storey building was still in so good condition and had been used to house members of the Order of the Holy Family.

As a result of the demolition the altar and religious statues were all discarded in a rubbish dump.

The sudden decision to tear down the monastery took Catholic officials by surprise. They are still unaware of the authorities’ motives for the destruction and of their intention for the future use of the land. However, in the recent past many Church properties have been turned into hotels and tourist resorts.

At the same time Vietnamese Catholics are concerned for the recent government crackdown. For months now the Communist state has been involved in an anti-Catholic campaign, seizing its properties, dragging the reputation of priests and men religious through the mud, for the only reason of trying to protect the environment. For all intents and purposes the government is trying to limit the right to worship.

On 21 May, Nguyen Thanh Xuan, the government's deputy chief of religious affairs, made it clear that the state “has no intention of returning any property or goods to the Catholic Church or any other religious organisation.”

The demolition of the convent is thus another sign that religious freedom is under threat in Vietnam.

The Congregation of the Brothers of Banam was established in 1931by Bishop Valentin Herrgott, then Vicar Apostolic of Phnom-Penh, Cambodia.

In 1970, after a coup against Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk, the Congregation of the Brothers of Banam moved to the diocese of Long Xuyen, Vietnam, for security reasons.

In 1984 all the members of the order were arrested charged with “counter-revolutionary activities” and their convent was shut down.

On several occasions churchmen have been imprisoned without trial. Several times the congregation has called justice, protesting against the detention of men religious, demanding the return of seized property, but to no avail.