A Vietnamese Catholic priest accused police of intentionally allowing a communist gang to destroy a church nativity scene that government authorities wanted to remove.
Father Dominic Pham Xuan Ke of Dong Kieu church in Vietnam alleged that police allowed a communist gang known as the “red flag group” to destroy the church’s nativity scene after parishioners refused to remove it, according to Express. Church parishioners and neighboring congregations rallied to defend the nativity after government authorities told the church to remove the display and claimed that it was on disputed land.
“We strongly oppose their illegal and unreasonable demand,” one parishioner said in response to the government order, according to UCA News.
Church leadership claimed that they set their nativity display on church property and therefore had a right to keep it.
Xuan Ke alleged that the red flag group threatened violence against the nativity display and that police did nothing to prevent them from carrying out their threat. Vandals attacked the church’s Christmas displays Dec. 13, shortly after government officials demanded they be removed. Attackers smashed Christmas lights and other elements of the display along the road to the church.
Xuan Ke held a special mass at the church the day after the attack as parishioners and members of nearby congregations gathered for a demonstration in defense of the nativity display.
“Why do authorities here ban erecting nativities?” Xuan Ke asked, according to Express.
The laws governing religious freedom in Vietnam are complicated, as the country’s constitution states that every citizen has the right to believe and practice whichever faith they choose, while individual laws allow the government to severely restrict and regulate religious practices, according to the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Vietnam. The Vietnamese government permitted the establishment of a Catholic institution in the country in 2016 for the first time since 1975.
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