Catholic volunteers help the poor and tribal children during Christmas
Like Saint Martin, the members of Xa Quê help out parishes and missionary communities. The percentage of Vietnamese below the poverty line is 13.5 per cent (2014). However, almost half of the rural population still lives under harsh conditions.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) – The Xa Quê Catholic Family Group, on 16 December feast day of Saint Martin, launched a programme to provide assistance and support to the members of poor ethnic minorities during the Christmas holidays
Fr Joseph Trần Hữu Hoan, the group’s spiritual guide, called on its members to follow in their daily life the good example of the saint, who was a model of humility and love for the poor.
"At present, about 25 per cent of the population is poor or at risk of poverty,” said a student from Hanoi who volunteers with Xa Quê, speaking to AsiaNews.
“However here in Hanoi, there are many cars, many buildings, worth millions of dollars, and government officials or red capitalists who live a life of abundance and luxury.”
Conversely, “In the deep forests and remote areas, many children face enormous difficulties, without shoes or shirts to go to school."
In light of the situation, many Catholics have been willing to help the poor and unfortunate children, especially during the Christmas season.
The 26 members of the Hanoi Family Group had already visited the members of ethnic minorities in Nà Phặc parish, Bắc Cạn, a small Redemptorists community.
"When we [had initially] arrived in the parish, we were impressed,” some of the volunteers said. “In the first months there was not even a church or a parish committee, only wild mountains and forests.”
Since then, “We found affection and support in each other through our faith and prayers to Our Lady. Today, the faithful in Nà Phặc parish can hope and live in the field of the immense mission."
This Christmas, many young volunteers helped, supported and worked with hundreds of members of tribal groups in the missions in Bản Mạch, Củng Nhá and Lủng Pu.
Others have visited and given Christmas gifts to the poor in Hanoi, the children of the parishes of Xuân Hòa, and Tiên Lãng (diocese of Hải Phòng), as well as the poor Catholics in Khe Chất, Mỹ Hưng (diocese of Hưng Hóa), and the diocese of Thái Bình. They also organised social and pastoral outreach activities for the diocese of Cao Bằng-Lạng Sơn.
In the past 30 years, poverty in Vietnam has fallen dramatically. In 1993, over half the population lived on less than US$ 1.90 a day. Today, the rate has dropped to 3 per cent. The percentage of Vietnamese living below the poverty line reached 13.5 per cent in 2014, down from almost 60 per cent in 1993.
More than 40 million people have escaped poverty over the last two decades. However, among ethnic minorities, almost half still live in extreme poverty. In mountainous regions, members of tribal groups also live in fear of natural disasters.
Whilst poverty reduction in urban areas is evident, the status of rural populations almost always goes unnoticed and the government lacks effective economic policies to deal with it.