Saturday, January 11, 2014

With Pope Francis, Vietnamese Catholics bring back fraternity and justice to society

In an increasingly apathetic, ideologically based modern society that has lost traditional moral values​​, Pope Francis' call for fraternity and justice is both a warning and an invitation to growth for the whole of Vietnam. 

On 1 January, 47th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's first World Day of Peace, the Argentine pope stressed the supreme value of "fraternity" as the "foundation and path to peace." 

Like the pontiff, Catholics and non-Catholics in the Communist-ruled Asian country want to challenge materialism, consumerism and individualism in order to build a new society.

Service to others is the source of "fraternity", something that is increasingly indispensable to "build peace." 

From Pope Francis' invitation to the faithful, Vietnamese Catholics draw new strength to challenge the evils of modernity: political, economic and moral corruption; shallow education; legal abuses; violations of basic human rights; and unfair land and financial uses.

Fr Matthew Vu Khoi Phung, head of Communications for the Redemptorists in Vietnam, said that the pope's words are a reminder of the many "challenges" that must be dealt with, starting with globalisation, which "brings us closer" but "does not make us brothers." 

Looking at the many international agreements signed by Vietnam, which is a member of the UN Council for Human Rights, the priest noted there is a lot of talk about human rights, but very little about "fraternity" in a world that favours a life "without emotion, like a body without a soul."

Cases of forgotten suffering emerge in everyday life: people left to fend for themselves, little affection for one's fellow man, lack of love for others. 

From this comes a call for solidarity, bearing witness, sharing, something that more urgent for priests, who are considered bridges between Vietnamese families and the heart of Jesus.

Catholics and non-Catholics share the same fears of a growing materialism in society. Ms Trinh, a journalist in Hanoi, reports that "the lack of sensitivity is the result of a lifestyle that is far too pragmatic." 

When moral values ​​are deeply corroded, she added, society is confronted with more and more crimes and violence. 

For this reason, it is necessary to fight apathy and ideology that have increasingly deprived the country and its people of their humanity and morality.

Vietnam's 87 million people include 48 per cent Buddhists, more than 7 per cent Catholics, 5.6 per cent syncretistic and 20 per cent atheist. 

As a small, albeit significant minority, the Christian community is particularly active in education, health and social affairs.

Conversely, religious freedom has steadily eroded. 

Under Decree 92, more controls and restrictions have been imposed on religious practice, increasingly under the thumb of the Communist Party and the one-party state.

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