08/18/2009, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Diocese will move neither the church, nor the sisters of Thu Thiem

by J.B. VU - Suor Maria
A statement to this effect is released after the Church holds talks with the Religious Affairs Committee of Ho Chi Minh City. The Bishop’s Office continues to consider valid the notion that whenever controversial issues emerge, mass media ought to respect the truth and build “bridges” rather than sow divisions within the community.
Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – The Archdiocese of Saigon “shall not move the Church of Thu Thiem, nor will it move the nuns of the Congregation of the Lovers of Thu Thiem Holy Cross,” said a statement released by the Bishop’s Office in relation to talks held with the Committee for Religious Affairs of Ho Chi Minh City, and this for historical reasons, namely the long period of “existence of the church itself.” Such at least is the official answer of the Church to demands by the local People’s Committee to move the sisters to build a “multipurpose commercial area” on their land.

The authorities made their demands on 11 June for an area of 3.5 hectares, which is all that is left of a larger area of 119 hectares that included a high school and which existed before Saigon fell to the Communists.

The nuns have spent an untold amount of time turning a humid tropical woodland area into liveable houses, church, schools and farms that enable them and local poor to live.

The congregation, Sister Maria told AsiaNews, “cannot move because the nuns’ presence is necessary for them and the population. For more than a century the sisters have lived there, contributing to the economic, cultural and educational development of the community. These factors, together with religion, are so important for the community and the city that they cannot disappear. They [the nuns] cannot abandon the community.”

During the meeting with Thu Thiem district, local officials have expressed their solidarity with the nuns who are run compassionate classes and social activities on behalf of children, teenagers and the poor of the area. “We want to talk about it with the People’s Committee,” they said.

For her part a retired nun told local authorities that “we cannot exclude the religion, culture and history of our great grandparents up to today. Be that as it may, today’s residents need a church, pagodas, and local cultural traditions. If a suitable solution isn’t found, we shall have drugs, prostitution, thieving, young people who break the law and many more social evils. We will lose community values.” For this reason the sisters called on the diocese for help.

The diocese responded in line with what the Vietnam Bishops’ Council has already expressed, namely a desire to see dialogue and truth as guiding principles whenever controversial issues emerge.

Open, honest and direct dialogue based on mutual respect is needed, a point the bishops publicly reiterated on their website following the Tam Toa Parish affair.

They also noted that last year they had called for a review of legislation with regard to land ownership so that private property can be recognised as sanctioned by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

At the same time the bishops said that when controversies do emerge, “certain media” should refrain from doing what was done in the past, namely distort the facts and create divisions in lieu of “building build bridges”.

Even though such points were repeated in recent events it is clear that what they said about media and communication had not changed. Indeed it is only by respecting the truth that communication media can fulfill its duty which is to inform and educate in order to build a just and democratic society.

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