Catholic intellectuals and government officials along with laypeople gathered this week to honor the country’s soldiers who have fallen in wars with foreign invaders and commemorate Martyrs Day, amid escalating tensions with China over territorial disputes.
About 200 priests, researchers, professors and relatives of dead soldiers, among others, lit incense and held a moment of silence for the nation’s war heroes at the Dominican-run Paul Nguyen Van Binh Pastoral Care Center in Ho Chi Minh City.
“The ceremony aims to express our deep gratitude to and great admiration for Vietnamese soldiers who died for the protection of the country,” said Nguyen Dinh Dau, a member of the Paul Nguyen Van Binh Club, named after the archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City.
Augustine Vuong Dinh Chu, also a club member, said the event also aimed to raise awareness of patriotism among local people and to urge them to defend the nation.
The event comes on the heels of an escalation of a land dispute with China over the Paracel and Spratly islands, where Vietnamese fishermen were detained last month by the Chinese navy.
Lawyer Le Hieu Dang, former deputy of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front in Ho Chi Minh City, said he was deeply concerned that a group of protesters demonstrating outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi and in front of the consulate in Ho Chi Minh City were arrested by Vietnamese security personnel.
“Why does the government ban people expressing their patriotism?”