Hanoi, Vietnam - Dong Chiem is practically under siege, with checkpoints on roads and bridges, set up by new contingents of police who are flowing into the area. This is the response of local authorities to peaceful protests of thousands of Catholics against the blowing up of the cross that stood on the hill, a site that for over a century has belonged to the parish in the town near Hanoi .
News of the destruction of the cross and attacks suffered by some Catholics, including journalist JB Nguyen Huu Vinh and father Nguyen Van Lien, of the parish of Dong Chiem, has provoked a demonstration by 2 thousand Catholics from the nearby parish of Nghia. Together with local faithful, they have staged a protest outside the office of the People's Committee.
To the efforts of the security forces - and the violence of their gangs of thugs - the faithful respond with pilgrimages where everyone tries to plant a cross next to the bamboo crucifix erected on Nui Tho to replace the one that was destroyed. "We will make this hill a Mountain of the crosses, like the one that Catholics created in Lithuania in Communist times," says a student in Hanoi after his team (pictured) succeeded in planting dozens of crosses on the hill , passing checkpoints and other measures of police seeking to stop the faithful. There are already hundreds of crosses planted on the hill.
Since learning of the destruction of the cross, in fact, Catholics of all in northern Vietnam are trying to go to Dong Chiem. And the authorities probably surprised by the magnitude of the reaction, are doing everything to prevent it, while minimizing the number of those who undertake the pilgrimage.
Yesterday, for example, as told by Father Joseph Pham Minh Trieu, a group of thousand people, led by him, had to cancel the trip, "the police confiscated the license of all our bus drivers." Hundreds of parishioners at Ham Long, however, used their motorcycles, and passed. Among them was the group of Hanoi students. They reached the summit of Nui Tho, which has become "the mountain of prayer" where they enacted the Way of the Cross. Other faithful managed to arrive by boat.
The Bishop of Kon Tum, Mgr. Michael Hoang Duc Oang, unable to go in person to Dong Chiem, sent a letter of support to the Archbishop of Hanoi, Mgr. Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, in which he writes: "your joy and your pain is also mine." The bishop recalled that he is from the parish of Dong Chiem and that what took place January 6 had a great effect on him.