03/10/2009, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Severe crisis for traditional model of Vietnamese family

by J.B. VU
More people are divorcing, or separating into nuclear families. Preoccupation with making money is overshadowing concern for children's education. Since last year, the bishops have been urging family education. A pastoral letter from Cardinal Pham Minh Man.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - The family is also changing in Vietnam, and is losing the values of its tradition. A survey conducted among 9,300 families, including elderly people, young people, parents and children from 64 provinces and cities, demonstrates that 20% are affected by violence, and 80% of the young people between the ages of 15 and 17 make their decisions on their own. From 2000 to 2009, there have been 60,000 cases of divorce each year. The number is increasing constantly for various reasons: for 27%, because of conflicts between models of family life, and for 25.9%, because of adultery. Then there are economic reasons (13%), violence (6.7%), health (2.2%), and living far away from the family (1.3%).

Divided families do not feel the responsibility of educating the children. Many fathers and mothers think that they should be concerned with money, and that when they are prosperous in material goods they can compensate for the lack of love for their children, who are deprived because their parents are too busy and anxious. But this compensation has nothing to do with children who need to be loved, cared for, at the center of attention, and for whom no one can replace their parents. "I want my children to become good persons," says one woman. "But I feel helpless in the social context, I have no time to take care of them, or have meals together. The role of the family is changing, reducing the function of education in my family. This makes relationships between human beings in society become insensitive and lack humanity with one another."

The family is changing all over Vietnam. From its traditional form, it is changing into nuclear families, with just the father and the mother, and is leading to disgraced families and children affected by the "su tham lam: (greed) of the adults. The family is the foundation of society; when it declines in morality, the same thing happens in society. In this way, the tendency leads to degradation and social structures and in individual lives. When a family does not educate its children, it is hard for it to produce good people who know how to behave well in society.

In this real situation, since 2008 the bishops of Vietnam have been urging family education. Cardinal Pham Minh Man, the archbishop of Saigon, addressed his pastoral letter in 2009 to the entire people of God, with fundamental ideas like: "if every Catholic family tries to build family and become a school of values like faith and love of God, and the human virtues of honesty, justice, probity, loyalty, humanity and generosity in the family as well as in society, we have the right to hope for a bright future of the Church, contributing actively to healthy social life."

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