Viewing cable 02HOCHIMINHCITY394
Title: EASTER SUNRISE SERVICE IN THE CENTRAL

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
02HOCHIMINHCITY3942002-04-17 09:43:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Consulate Ho Chi Minh City
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.


2002HOCHI00394 - UNCLASSIFIED
 
 
 
                           UNCLASSIFIED     PTQ4003

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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 
 
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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