11/19/2007, 00.00
VIETNAM
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For migrant workers Sunday mass is a chance at social improvement

In Hải Phòng mass is celebrated inside a clothing factory. Christians meet and exchange experiences. Workers now enjoy better conditions but still lack education and social relations.

Hải Phòng (AsiaNews) – For many Christian migrant workers, meeting for Sunday mass is—in addition to being a moment of prayer—a chance to meet, talk, discuss their respective experiences in order seek cultural and social improvement, this thanks to a local company that has made a meeting room available on Sundays.

Hải Phòng is a port city in northern Vietnam with a population of almost five million people. According to annual statistics for 2005 published by Viet Nam Catholic, the city is also home to 113,092 Catholics. The diocese itself was founded in 1655.

Many of the companies now operating in the city were built when the country was under French colonial rule. Today they employ hundreds of thousands of workers who do hard work, follow the trade unions and worry about how to lead a Christian live.

On Sunday mass for migrant workers is celebrated on the premises of a clothing firm.

“Usually I go to my parish,” said Hiep. “But a friend once invited me to go with him to this company. I saw many young workers, especially young women. The ceremony takes place in the meeting room. There is the altar with the cross. It is all very simple and natural; everyone is cordial and a regular.”

Many young workers are happy to go to church because they have an opportunity to meet others and exchange experiences, not to mention receive the sacraments.

“Each one of us has faith and hope in Jesus. We have overcome obstacles in our work and life,” said Van.

“If I don’t think about penitence, I feel distant from Jesus’ love,” said Hien.

Although their life is better than ten years ago, workers lack education, social relations as well as cultural and spiritual resources. They need in fact material and spiritual support.

It is a difficult situation but there are clergymen who voluntarily get involved in society to work with them. They go into poor sections where migrants live to provide them and their children with some support, education and advice on family life.

It is impossible to imagine what it is like to live in a single room with another 10, 15 or even 20 workers. But many young women do so to save every penny to send to their families in the countryside. This is why they came into the cities in the first place.

“After eight hours of work a day, I don’t want to worry about my health, education or pastimes,” one of the workers, Ly, told AsiaNews. “My only joy is going to church for my spiritual life; it is my true hope.”

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