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Cablegate: Easter Sunrise Service in the Central

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.


2002HOCHI00394 - UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED PTQ4003

PAGE 01 HO CHI 00394 01 OF 02 171252Z
ACTION EAP-00

INFO LOG-00 NP-00 AID-00 AMAD-00 CIAE-00 SRPP-00 DS-00
EB-00 ED-01 FBIE-00 UTED-00 VC-00 HHS-01 H-01
TEDE-00 INR-00 IO-00 L-00 VCE-00 AC-01 DCP-01
NSAE-00 OIC-02 OMB-01 OPIC-01 PA-00 PER-00 PM-00
PRS-00 ACE-00 P-00 SP-00 STR-00 TEST-00 TRSE-00
USIE-00 PMB-00 DSCC-00 PRM-00 DRL-02 G-00 NFAT-00
SAS-00 SWCI-00 /011W
------------------87758E 171410Z /38
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 6242
INFO AMEMBASSY HANOI
USMISSION GENEVA
ASEAN COLLECTIVE
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
JICPAC HONOLULU HI
SECDEF WASHDC
DIA WASHDC
NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 000394

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV AND EAP/PD/KFOSTER
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR PRM
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR DRL
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 02 HO CHI 00394 01 OF 02 171252Z
CINCPAC FOR FPA
SECDEF FOR ISA/EA/ABLAGG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KIRF PREF SOCI VM CB RELFREE HUMANR ETMIN
SUBJECT: EASTER SUNRISE SERVICE IN THE CENTRAL
HIGHLANDS OF VIETNAM

REF: HCMC 0032

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: AN EASTER SUNRISE SERVICE PACKED THE
COMPOUND OF A 90-YEAR-OLD WOODEN CHURCH WITH THOUSANDS
OF ETHNIC MINORITY CATHOLIC WORSHIPPERS FROM VILLAGES
IN KON TUM PROVINCE IN VIETNAM'S CENTRAL HIGHLANDS.
THE TWO-HOUR SERVICE, CONDUCTED ENTIRELY IN ETHNIC
LANGUAGES, INCORPORATED TRIBAL MUSIC AND DANCE.
AFTERWARDS, DURING A CONVERSATION WITH THE AMBASSADOR
IN THE PRESENCE OF WHAT APPEARED TO BE PLAINCLOTHES
SECURITY OFFICERS, THE CHURCH'S PRIEST WAS RELUCTANT TO
ESTIMATE THE NUMBER OF WORSHIPPERS IN ATTENDANCE. POST
ESTIMATES THAT UPWARDS OF 10,000 PERSONS WERE PRESENT
TO FREELY EXERCISE THEIR FAITH. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) AMBASSADOR, CG, CONOFF, FSN POL/ECON ASSISTANT
AND THE AMBASSADOR'S INTERPRETER ATTENDED THE EASTER
SUNRISE SERVICE AT KON TUM'S "NHA THO GO" OR "WOODEN
CHURCH". CONGEN HAD BEEN INFORMED THAT THE SERVICE
WOULD LIKELY BE WELL-ATTENDED. SHOULD THE NUMBER OF
WORSHIPPERS OVERFLOW THE SANCTUARY, PEOPLE WOULD BE
ACCOMMODATED IN AREAS IMMEDIATELY OUTSIDE THE CHURCH
BUILDING. ARRIVING AT THE CHURCH, CONGENOFFS
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HO CHI 00394 01 OF 02 171252Z
DISCOVERED THAT THE "OVERFLOW" AMOUNTED TO MORE THAN
10,000 WORSHIPPERS. THE CHURCH COMPOUND WAS NOT
CAPABLE OF HOLDING ALL ATTENDEES AND THE SPILLOVER
CROWD BLOCKED THE ROAD IN FRONT OF THE CHURCH, CAUSING
DIFFICULTY FOR PASSING VEHICLES. (COMMENT: POST'S
ESTIMATE OF 10,000-PLUS PEOPLE IN THE CHURCH COMPOUND
IS BASED ON THE NUMBER OF ROWS IN A SECTION MULTIPLIED
BY THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN EACH ROW.)

3. (U) FATHER LIEN THANH NGUYEN, AN ETHNIC VIETNAMESE
KINH ORIGINALLY FROM NORTHERN VIETNAM, LED THE WORSHIP
PRIMARILY IN THE BA NA LANGUAGE, WITH PORTIONS IN THE
SEDANG LANGUAGE. FOLLOWING THE ORDER OF SERVICE,
WORSHIPPERS DECKED IN TRADITIONAL, COLORFUL DRESS
ALTERNATED STANDING AND SITTING ON THE GROUND OR ON
STRAW MATS. THE MUSICAL INTERLUDES WERE PROVIDED BY
ETHNIC MINORITY MUSICIANS USING TRADITIONAL INSTRUMENTS
(WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE ORGAN). GIRLS IN BRIGHTLY-
WOVEN NATIVE DRESS PERFORMED DANCES, ACCOMPANIED BY
HIGHLAND GONGS. MIDWAY THROUGH THE SERVICE, THE BISHOP
OF KON TUM ARRIVED TO CELEBRATE THE EUCHARIST.

4. (U) COMMUNION WAS SERVED TO THE ENTIRE CROWD BY AN
ESTIMATED 30 WHITE-ROBED PRIESTS FROM LOCAL CHURCHES.
THROUGHOUT THE CROWD, ORDERLY LINES CIRCLED AROUND
THOSE SERVING THE COMMUNION WAFER. COMMUNION ITSELF
LASTED 25 MINUTES.

5. (SBU) SOME ATTENDEES CARRIED SMALL BOOKS IN THEIR
ETHNIC LANGUAGE, APPARENTLY EITHER PRAYER OR SONG
BOOKS. FEW CELEBRANTS SPOKE VIETNAMESE. WORSHIPPERS
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HO CHI 00394 01 OF 02 171252Z
SMILED AND WERE SHYLY CURIOUS ABOUT THE PRESENCE OF
FOREIGNERS/AMERICANS AT THE SERVICE. LOCAL VIETNAMESE
MEDIA CARRYING STILL AND VIDEO CAMERAS DOCUMENTED THE
SERVICE. PLAINCLOTHES POLICE WERE ALSO IN ATTENDANCE
AND MONITORED THE CROWD FROM THE BACK, BUT AT NO TIME
INTERFERED WITH THE SERVICE. (NOTE: POST BELIEVES SOME
OF THE LOCAL MEDIA REPRESENTATIVES WERE ACTUALLY
SECURITY AGENTS AS WELL. WHEN CONOFF TRIED TO TAKE
PHOTOS TO DOCUMENT THE "MEDIA'S" PRESENCE, THEY AVERTED
THEIR FACES.)

6. (SBU) COMMENT: AFTER THE SERVICE, FATHER LIEN
INDICATED THAT CROWDS OF THIS SIZE - OR LARGER - ARE
ROUTINE ON IMPORTANT DAYS IN THE CATHOLIC CALENDAR.
ONE OF THE PLAINCLOTHES SECURITY AGENTS FOLLOWED THE
AMBASSADOR AND CONGENOFFS INTO THE RECTORY, STAYED A
DISCREET DISTANCE AWAY, AND DID NOT OVERTLY INTERFERE
WITH CONVERSATION. FATHER LIEN, HOWEVER, SEEMED TO
DOWNPLAY THE NUMBERS SEEN THAT EASTER SUNDAY. STILL,
CONGENOFFS WERE IMPRESSED BY THE NATURALNESS OF BOTH
THE SETTING AND THE CONGREGATION DURING THE SUNRISE
SERVICE. NOBODY LOOKED FEARFUL OR FURTIVE. IT WAS A
STRIKING EXAMPLE OF HOW "FREE" RELIGION CAN BE IN
VIETNAM - AS LONG AS IT IS A LEGALLY RECOGNIZED
RELIGION. THE LARGE, PEACEFUL CROWD - WHILE MONITORED
BY PLAINCLOTHES POLICE - WAS LEFT TO PRACTICE THEIR
FAITH OPENLY. THE SHEER NUMBERS, THE RESPECT FOR
ETHNIC MINORITY CULTURE, AND THE QUIET INTENT OF EACH
BELIEVER AS HE/SHE LISTENED TO A MASS CELEBRATED IN TWO
ETHNIC LANGUAGES WAS MOVING. YAMAUCHI

UNCLASSIFIED

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