Following Francis, the Vietnamese Church promises help and hospitality to migrants
Modernisation and industrialisation have driven millions of people to the big cities. The Bishops' Conference calls for openness to these "brothers and sisters" in difficult conditions. Parishes are tasked to provide pastoral care. For Vietnamese bishop, migrants must be "helped, supported, loved and encouraged”.
Modernisation, industrialisation, and consumerism have pushed millions of people towards Vietnam’s main cities, like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, in search of education and employment, often humble and low-paying jobs.
Each migrant has a personal story and a different situation; yet, they all have one thing in common: their family is the first victim of rapid urbanisation, an unbalanced phenomenon that is widening societal cleavages.
For this reason, the Vietnamese Catholic Church is promoting pastoral outreach in favour of internal migrants, people "without roots" who are often victims of discrimination and marginalisation.
In Vietnam, large-scale urbanisation began in 1987. Today, the country’s main urban centres represent a large proportion of its 90.4 million people. One example is the metropolitan area of the former Saigon, which is now home to some 12 million people, including more than 7 million natives and about 5 million immigrants.
Responding to Pope Francis’ appeal for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, the local Church sent a pastoral letter "to all the people of God", calling for attention, care and solidarity initiatives for such poor and abandoned people.
"The immigration issue is not just about life, but also has consequences on the faith of [the country’s] Catholics,” the Vietnamese Bishops' Conference said.
In fact, if many rural parishes lack the human resources to meet the challenges of the community, the same applies to many urban communities that are "overloaded" in terms of their pastoral work. For this reason, the bishops want the faithful to accept their (internal) migrant brothers and sisters.
Mgr Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh, president of the Episcopal Commission for the pastoral care of migrants calls for greater coordination at the diocesan level to promote "pastoral programmes for lay and young people", which will help them "keep the faith alive ". This must include a “more efficient network of priests and nuns”.
For Mgr Paul Bùi Văn Đọc, archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City, migrants should be involved "in the pastoral activities of the parishes" with a spirit of "love and acceptance".
"No one wants to leave purposely their families or their homes,” he said. In reality, “Most immigrants move to big cities to earn a living."
For this reason, they must be "helped, supported, loved and encouraged to live in the parishes and communities,” said the president of the Commission for the pastoral care of migrants.
Fr Paul Pham Trung Dong, head of the Commission for the pastoral care of migrants in Saigon, said that “a number of challenges and difficulties” define immigrants’ everyday life. However, the Church plays the role of a mother, concerned about everyone, especially the weakest, he added.
Sadly, in the current environment many Vietnamese view "immigrants" as people who bring social problems, illnesses or behave badly for money.
A journalist, who is also a migrant, told AsiaNews about the "enormous difficulties" he experienced first-hand.
"Many people say that immigrants are people who made mistakes in life or are not good people... rootless,” he explained. “I feel deep sadness when I hear these words full of discrimination."
In reality, many of the immigrants are students, who move to the big cities to gain knowledge and experience to be passed on once they move back to their villages.
This is the case of John Nguyễn Minh Tuấn, a 23-year-old university originally from the diocese of Thanh Hoa, who is grateful for the support received at the parish hostel.
"When I finish school,” he said, “I plan to go back home and find a job to help my family and my community."
Paul N. Hung