Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) The Sisters of Mother Teresa might be back in Vietnam to perform social and pastoral work after being banned for years, this after Sister Nirmala, superior of the Missionaries of Charity, recently made a visit to the diocese of Hanoi.
On June 8, officials responsible for the Vietnamese government's religious policy asked the religieuse to prepare a plan of activities that her congregation might undertake. Once prepared it would go to the departments of Religious affairs and of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs for review.
Sister Maria François Ha Thanh Tinh, who heads the Charity of Jesus Congregation, a group active in Vietnam and inspired by Mother Teresa's spirituality, told AsiaNews that after the meeting between the Superior and Dhang Tai Than, head of the Religious Affairs Committee in Hanoi, the latter said that his "government had the intention of backing the activities of the Missionaries of Charity in the country."
Mother Teresa's sisters have never had a home in Vietnam and their presence has always ad hoc. In 1974 then bishop of Saigon, Mgr Paul Nguyen Van Binh, had invited Mother Teresa to undertake pastoral and social activities in his archdiocese.
A few brothers from the Missionaries of Charity began working among the lepers, the poor, the homeless, the marginalised and abandoned children, but in 1975, following the Communists' victory, they were expelled along with all the priests and nuns.
In 1993 the Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs officially invited Mother Teresa to come to work in Vietnam. Altogether four nuns became involved in working with disable children in Ba Vi province; another four in Ho Chi Minh City.
However, the difficulties were enormous because of the government's rigid religious policy. For instance, they were not granted the necessary permit to set up a home to conduct charitable work or provide social assistance.
Sister Maria François said that Mother Teresa paid a visit to the Charity of Jesus Congregation in 1974 and 1975. Because of that, "in our activities in favour of the sick, the socially marginalised and HIV-positive people, we find inspiration in the Blessed's spirituality," she said. "Among us there are also those who work with well-to-do families who are never the less spiritually poor and in need of advice about life".
In her recent trip from June 5 to 8, Sister Nirmala wanted to see the underbelly of Vietnam first hand as well as the aid activities already provided by the Charity of Jesus Congregation.
In the Song Than area, Sister Maria François said, there are many women originally from northern and central Vietnam, who have come to earn a living. But because of their poor living conditions they become sexually exploited or have affairs with married men and are forced to have abortions. They need psychological and spiritual help.
"If the government was really interested in social issues, it could do more by allowing the religieux do more social work".
The Sister of Mother Teresa have mission homes in more than 120 countries around the world, including almost all Communist and formerly Communist countries like the former Soviet Union, Albania and Cuba.