The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.
(PASTORAL CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH IN THE MODERN WORLD - GAUDIUM ET SPES)
As Vietnamese Catholics who have been forced to live in the diaspora, we always reminisce about our beloved country of Vietnam, where the great majority of our people live in anxiety and suffering under a harsh political regime. In particular, we stay in communion with the Catholic Church in Vietnam, where many of the Lord's children are facing repression and persecution. Through this Statement , we wish to present our viewpoints on the most pressing issues of concern.
I. The state of the homeland
1. Loss of national sovereignty-the greatest threat: For years, Communist China has embarked on a planned annexation of many areas of Vietnam with the complicity of the communist Vietnamese government. Not only do they encroach on our land, occupy our islands, they also organise the migration of Chinese into Vietnam, and bribe government officials of all levels in a systematic fashion in order to manipulate the Vietnamese economy.
2. Cultural and ethical destruction: The value systems collapse is being reflected in the loss of sense of personal responsibility and in every social environment: family breakdown, school violence, professional ethic downfall, even among traditionally honored domains such as education, healthcare and even religion. Particularly in the area of public administration, bribery and corruption have become the code of conduct for government officials. As a result, social injustice and the gap between the rich and the poor have increasingly become a grave concern.
3. Trampled dignity and human rights deprivation: In order to protect the political monopoly of the Communist Party, the Vietnamese authorities have increasingly suppressed dissident and counter-opinions by assaulting, arbitrarily detaining, and imprisoning nonconformists without fair trial. Basic human rights such as the right to liberty and security of person, the right to private property, the right to a fair trial, the right to freedom of expression and freedom of speech, and the right to freedom of religion and worship, etc. are blatantly violated.
II The status of the Church:
1. Focus on religious appearance: Although being forced to live in a corrupt society and guided by the Church that is increasingly metamorphosed, Vietnamese Catholics are generally holding on to their faith. However, the religious practice is too focussing on outside appearance, with particular emphasis on superficial amenities and festivals, such as the construction of churches buildings and pilgrimage centers, and processions ... rather than on substantial religious activities in daily living. The Church, as a result, has been seen as being distant from the worries and anguish of the people, the oppressed, the exploited and abandoned of society. Its missionary therefore has not achieved did not achieve the optimal result.
2 – Ineffective representation: As representatives for the Catholics in Vietnam, the pastors have occasionally voiced their views on the collapse of social values, the shortcomings of the government and the threats facing the country, by public statements such as the Open Letter to the government (2002), Viewpoints on a number of issues in current society (2008), A review of the status of the South China Sea (2014), Comments and recommendations on the amendment of the Constitution (2013), Comment on the situation in the South China Sea (2014), and the most recent is the Open Letter to the National Assembly on the draft law of Van Don, Van Van and Phu Quoc special administrative units (2018). Originally, these were originally inspired by some, but soon fell into oblivion, because on the one hand these statements/declarations are occasional, and on the other the message was not permeable to all Christians. It means that there is a lack of continued support and development from dioceses to parishes, to help Christians learn to understand, to share the views of the pastors, and to raise awareness about the teaching of the Church.
3- Lack of communion and co-responsibility: Ecclesial communion is a gift of God, but also a responsibility of all the people of God. Over the years, there has been a strange absence of communion and co-responsibility in the Vietnamese Catholic Church , especially in pastoral ministers at all levels in the face of national and social problems. Whatever the reason, the silence, the ignorance, and the avoidance are the actions that go against the prophetic role and the duty of being a citizen. This is also one of the reasons for the lack of credibility of the pastors in their teaching and the ineffectiveness of their viewpoints presentations.
1. Living communion: This is a prerequisite to address the shortcomings. First of all, this should be done by the pastors through unity and co-responsibility to collectively and regularly voice their viewpoints on the vital issues of the country, the social problems, and the grave offenses against the human dignity and human rights. Secondly, there should be communion among the catholic people through initiatives of common activities in Catholic communities, for example through joint charity campaigns, united corporate activities, or emulation events to learn about the Church’s social teaching.
2. Reforming the religious practice: The collapse of the value system causes Christians in Vietnam to lose direction. Lacking of anchor in faith and exemplars, they succumb to negative social trends: indifference, selfishness, violence, deceit, cheating. More than ever, this is the time for the spiritual direction and the exemplary pastors, so that not only the God followers, but also all those who are well-intentioned, will place their trust in the goodness in life and courageously live that faith in the broken society.
3. Practicing religion in daily life: the communion bears the fruit of empathy and the joy of religious practicing. The empathy would not only be among the people of God but with people as a whole. If achieving this status the Vietnamese church would reflect its practice of religion in daily life. Thus, the church reconciles with the "joy and hope, sadness and anxiety" of the people, especially of the petitioners, of the oppressed and unfairly imprisoned, of the majority of people who are being disappointed in the future of the country and in the life ahead. Reconcile by sharing specific materials , by providing the necessary mental support, and by courageous voices of defense.
Pham Hong Lam