Prayers in the Cities: Hanoi and Saigon
According to Spero News (September 26, 2011), over 2,000 Christian Redemptorists gathered in the cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City this week to pray for the safety and well-being of Vietnam’s political prisoners. Religious freedom, peace for the country, and the release of the detainees were all among the wishes of the people. It is not said whether the gathering was broken up by authorities or not, one could probably perceive this as a good sign.
It would be naive of me to say that this event could spark a revolution in Vietnam, for this event is much too small for that. However, I will take the event for what it is, a positive act by the people. Besides the anti-China protests, now stifled by the Communist government, any forms of protests and gatherings in Vietnam rarely last. This religious gathering by Vietnamese Christians is probably no exception. Though there is no coverage of violent repression by security forces, it is almost definite that the police dispersed or even detained some individuals.
Any talks of freedom in Vietnam are swiftly and forcefully crushed by the Vietnamese police, this time is no different. It is difficult for the Communists to lay charges to peaceful worshippers, but they always find a way around it. In the same Spero News article, interviews of everyday individuals in Vietnam bring to light some disturbing tactics used by the Party. Instead of outright detention of peoples of interest, the Communist Party arrests them secretly, in order to not draw attention to themselves. Religious figures are common victims of these kidnappings, for they hold influence among the population. Therefore, public detainments of these individuals would spark anger among the population, causing difficulties for the Communists.
The prayers in the cities of Vietnam may not be a very strong political statement, the event itself is quite minor. However, it takes quite a bit of courage to go out and worship in a society where religion is a major target of the government. Not only that, but the prayers are for the freedom of religion and just treatment of detained religious leaders. This probably will not lead to a major movement that will overthrow the Communist Party of Vietnam, but it is still a noteworthy move in this struggle for freedom.