04/30/2009, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Opposition to the government’s plans for the Central Highlands is a “patriotic” duty

by J.B. An Dang
Redemptorist superior responds to media attacks against two clergymen, saying that “protecting nature and the environment is a necessary condition for human development.” One of the two under attack is on the frontline in the battle for life, something which makes the government unhappy.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Opposition by two Redemptorists to plans by Vietnam’s government to start open-pit bauxite mining in the Central Highlands, which led to virulent attacks from government media (protest against one of the papers pictured), is “proof of their patriotism,” said Fr Vincent Pham Trung Thanh, Redemptorist provincial superior of Vietnam, in a public statement.

Dated 28 April, the statement explained that scientists, intellectuals, former officials and countless of Vietnamese at home and abroad share the same concern and are adamantly opposed to the government’s bauxite plans for their long term detrimental and impact on the environment and society.

Citing the message of Pope Benedict XVI on World Day of Peace 2007, Fr Vincent Pham said that “there is a reciprocal connection between the ecology of nature, the human ecology, and the social ecology.”

“Experience shows that disregarding the environment always harms human coexistence, and vice versa. It becomes more and more evident that there is an inseparable link between peace with creation and peace among men. Both of these presuppose peace with God,” Fr. Vincent Pham added.

“Protecting nature and the environment is a necessary condition for human development,” he said, adding that “in any development process, in any area, the spiritual and material benefits of the whole community, especially of the poor and the underdeveloped, must be taken into account. The economy must serve the entire society and the welfare of all the members of the society, not just a privileged minority,” he stressed.

For this reason, the concerns and anxieties voiced by Fr Joseph Le Quang Uy and Fr Peter Nguyen Van Khai, the two clergymen attacked by the media, “are proof of their patriotism,” said the Redemptorist provincial superior.

Of the two priests targeted by state media and accused, among other things, of trying to overthrow the government, a crime punishable by death, one, Fr Peter Nguyen Van Khai, is also spokesman for the Thai Ha monastery and parish. The other is Fr Quang Uy, known around the country for his work with the poor and AIDS patients and for his pro-life commitment.

The government is particularly unhappy with the last activity since it views abortion as an effective means for population control. In a country 82 million people, 1.4 million abortions are carried out each year, one of the highest rates in the world.

Experts note that gender inequality, which increases the rate of sex-selection abortions, lower average age for first sexual experiences and the government’s own family planning policy are to blame instead.

Fr Joseph Uy, 50, is the spiritual leader of the ‘Disciples of Jesus’, a group that tries to bring some comfort to the poor and the homeless through small donations and persuade young women with unwanted pregnancies to give their children up for adoption rather than opt for an abortion.

In another development, Hanoi Criminal Investigation Department has repeatedly sent “urgent summoning orders” asking Fr. Peter Nguyen to be present “in person” at the department for the “clarification of a number of documents.” So far, Fr. Peter Nguyen has refused to go and has been backed by priests, religious and parishioners in Thai Ha.

In a statement released on Tuesday 28April, representatives of priests, religious and parishioners of Thai Ha parish said: “Rev. Peter Nguyen Van Khai is our appointed spokesperson for the Redemptorist monastery-Thai Ha parish. Every single document or statement produced by Rev Peter Nguyen Van Khai as our spokesperson therefore has to be understood with common sense as the reflection of the collective aspiration, will, position, view of all priests, religious, and parishioners from the Redemptorist monastery–Thai Ha parish. Rev Peter Nguyen Van Khai personally is just a member among our community who is responsible for making announcements.”

“All priests, religious and parishioners here at Redemptorist monastery-Thai Ha are in perfect unison and all responsible for any affair, policies, and actions that are pertinent to the Redemptorist monastery-Thai Ha parish,” the statement said.

It concluded saying that “Should there be any issue that [requires] the above-mentioned agencies [. . .] to work with the Redemptorist monastery-Thai Ha parish, we ask that it be done with all our priests, religious and parishioners.”

 

Emily Nguyen contributed to the article.

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