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An unexpected reprieve

By May 8, 2009

Vietnam
(MNN) — In an unexpected turn of events, Communist authorities in Hanoi have responded to
protests and halted construction on a piece of land that a Catholic church
claims to have owned since 1928, International Christian Concern reports. 

Vietnamese Roman Catholics had held several protests against
the construction on land claimed by the Tai Ha Redemptorist parish, including a
prayer vigil observed by one thousand people. 

Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung announced the decision of
the Hanoi People's Committee on Tuesday, according to AFP. The committee had told agencies to "stop the
implementation of the project and construction works on the land of the Ba
Giang lake," he said. 

AFP said that a school has already been constructed on the
property, and another building as well as a residential block are also
planned. 

Vietnam's
Communist government has given mixed signals to Vietnamese Christians in recent
months. Last month, it allowed
unregistered house church groups and 15,000 people to hold a large, public
Easter-related service at Tao Dan Stadium. It had only allowed such an event on one other occasion, at
Christmastime in 2007. 

On March 11, however, the government abruptly destroyed an
historic church building in the Banmethuot om area. It had confiscated the building from the
Evangelical Church of Vietnam (South), or ECVN(S), in 1975.

The ECVN(S) passed a resolution stating that its "Executive
Council…is extremely upset and in deep sympathy with the 135,000 believers in
Dak Lak province." 

Eight percent of the Vietnamese population is Christian. Of these, 6.46 percent are Catholic, and .89 percent are Protestant.

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