Social work, an opportunity for friendship between Vietnamese Catholics and Buddhists
by J.B. Vu
Card Pahm Minh Man and To Dinh An Quang Superior meet in Ho Chi Minh City. Working together to help the poor, children and AIDS patients, members of the two religions are deepening their relationship.
Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Present in 115 centres that provide support for the disabled, the elderly and education as well as 23 centres that help the mentally ill, drug addicts and AIDS patients, the Catholic Church of Ho Chi Minh City is extending its friendship to other religions involved in social work, especially Buddhists.

Catholics and Buddhists are in fact working together to help the poor and children living in difficult situations. Since 2009, Card Pahm Minh Man and the inter-faith group have been working together, taking care of orphans, street kids, the poor, AIDS patients, and victims of natural disasters like flooding and typhoons.

Faith-based social centres are usually small and lack fully trained social work professionals. However, their “clients” are loved and well looked after—good food and other social services are also provided. Because of limited human resources, “clients” are not very interested in spiritual matters.

For the most part, Catholics and Buddhists are not formally trained in social work, but they tend to compensate this limitation by close co-operation. This has enabled them to understand each other better. For this reason, the cardinal last week visited To Dinh An Quang Pagoda where he met Superior Buddhist Monk Thich Tri Quang.

The two men discussed environmental protection and religious meditation about life. The prelate also delivered a message from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue for the Buddhist feast of Vesak.

The Buddhist superior spoke about his experiences of meditation in reaching calm and tranquillity when, in organising religious and social activities, he had to face certain situations and challenges.

Thich Tri Quang has encouraged in particular exchanges about spiritual experiences, especially among young people of both religions, to deepen the friendship that has developed between dignitaries of the two faiths.

Visits and inter-faith dialogue are a sign of the fraternal relations that exist between Catholics and Buddhists. Over time, shared activities have been consolidated, opening the path for exchanges on working experiences between members of the two religions.