Hanoi (AsiaNews/EDA) - Beijing's imperialist policy in the South China Sea did not end with the removal of a controversial oilrig. On the contrary, it has "intensified in a disturbing way," said the leaders of the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Church in Vietnam, in a long letter addressed to "the people of God within and outside the country" published by Église d'Asie (EDA).
The Chinese are turning a stretch of the coast of the Paracel Islands "into a giant construction site," seriously violating the "sovereignty of Vietnam" and "jeopardising peace" in the Asia-Pacific region.
In their letter, the Catholic leaders note the many dangerous outbreaks of violence and tensions around the world, mentioning the message of Our Lady of Fatima, which is still current today because it highlights "the virtue of penance, prayer and sacrifice for the transformation of the world".
"Our world and our country, Vietnam," they write, "are today going through a period of radical change, full of challenges and risks."
They mention that conflict rages at the international level: in Gaza between Israel and Palestine, in Ukraine with Russian separatists, in Iraq and Syria with the violence of the Islamic State, and the new Cold War between Russia on the one hand, and the United States and the European Union on the other.
However, what worries the most are the tensions between "China and several ASEAN countries" (a ten-member Association of Southeast Asia Nations) in the East Sea (aka South China Sea).
Vietnam, they write, not only has to deal with "the danger of a war," but also must "support the economic situation in a recession," combined with the "decline of moral values and social upheavals."
Sadly, human dignity and justice and human rights "are not yet deeply respected," they add. "We continue to favour 'favours' for China, without taking into account the warning by leading Vietnamese figures and intellectuals ".
In a difficult context, the Vietnamese Church wonders "how it is possible to live and proclaim the Gospel" since " Catholics cannot remain indifferent to this state of affairs," but "have to demonstrate great patriotism, courage and clarity".
From a "faith perspective," the Justice and Peace Commission warned, the answer to the questions "is contained in the message of Fatima in 1917," which calls for conversion, penance, and change in one's life through reciting the Rosary.
As Russia did in the past, China today has to undergo a journey of "conversion", and abandon its ideology.
"We must continue to put into practice the Virgin's message, and pray for peace in the world," the leaders of the Episcopal Commission said, " so that China is converted and long-lasting peace and justice take hold in Vietnam."
Finally, the bishops hope that "the leaders of our country will be able to pursue a policy in accordance with the traditional morality of our people" and that "those in power in China will learn respect for justice and peace."
Beijing must "get rid of the its 'Greater China' ideology and immediately put an end to its invasion attempts, and respect international conventions."