Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – “The natural environment is a gift from the Creator that all of us can share”; it is “a gift for everyone, not for a particular individual or minority group” and must be preserved for “for generations to come”. This is the message at the heart of the pastoral letter published by Card. Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man, of Ho Chi Minh City, on May 28th. The prelate reminds the faithful that “Protecting environment is a Christian’s duty”.
The letter is his response to a decision from Vietnam congress to back industrial projects in the name of progress despite the risk of widespread environmental damage. The prelate recalls two particular cases: the pollution of the River Thi Vai, in Ho Chi Minh City, caused by factory waste from the Vedan Vietnam industries specialised in glutamine, starch and sodium; and the a decision from Vietnam congress to back bauxite mining projects in the Central Highlands region.
Critics include Vo Nguyen Giap, general Vo Nguyen Giap, the legendary communist wartime hero. General Giap’s battle is characterised by a nationalist stamp; he claims the environmental and social damage from the mines would far outweigh any economic benefit, and pointed to security concerns due to the long term presence of hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers in bauxite mines.
In his letter, card. Pham Minh Man echoes the concern of scientists and intellectuals that: “Since natural environment is for everyone, no one has permission to damage or control it even in the name of economic development”. The prelate argues that industrialists only think “to gain profits for a small group of privileged people” without any thought for the “collateral effects caused” by their factories. “These strategies of economic development can only lead to chaos– concludes the archbishop of former Saigon – They are neither for the common good of society, nor the future of the nation”.
The criticism of bauxite projects has come from various directions of Vietnamese civil society, but the communist party has singled out the Catholic community for punishment: Last month, Fr. Peter Nguyen Van Khai, the spokesman of Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery, and another Redemptorist, Fr. Joseph Le Quang Uy were victimized by the government for their opposition against bauxite projects. They were accused by state media of "stupidity" and "ignorance," of causing serious damage to national unity and to the process of development, and of plotting to overthrow the communist regime.