01/26/2011, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Church helping the elderly, the poor and children for lunar New Year

by J.B. Vu
Ho Chi Minh City Catholics are bringing help and gifts to the poor communities of Can Gio, a coastal district in the city. The gap between rich and poor is widening and islands residents suffer from the problems caused by slow and uncertain development.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Catholics are mobilising groups of volunteers to help the poor, the sick and children with difficulties in conjunction with the upcoming lunar New Year. Last week, a number of priests and lay volunteers visited An Thoi Dong municipality to bring gifts and drinking water to the poor, the sick, the elderly and children.

Can Gio is a coastal district within the Ho Chi Minh City municipality, some 50 kilometres from downtown. It has 69 islands and is home to more than 68,000 people. About 80 per cent of the population is made up of ethnic Vietnamese, the rest are ethnic Khmer and Cham.

Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s fastest growing city but also a place where the gap between haves and have-nots is expanding the fastest.

The processes of modernisation and urbanisation are leading to social problems and affecting people’s lives. Out of 20 companies investing in the district, 12 are late in implementing their plans. Land they had asked for could thus be used for farming. However, local residents are in a difficult situation because of administrative problems.

In order to help, Card Pham Minh Man got the local seminary involved back in 1991. Local Redemptorists also sent a few priests and religious to help residents, both Catholic and non-Catholic. Today, An Thoi Dong parish has a population of 600 Catholics who can enjoy a spacious new church built in 2006.

As the lunar New Year approaches, volunteers and catechists from the archdiocese have begun visiting residents, bringing gifts.

Today, the An Thoi Dong church, which belongs to parishes in the Xom Chieu area, is a centre that provides services and help to local poor communities.

Social and economic experts note however that help for residents of this coastal district would require a strategy from city authorities based on “total human development through the implementation of actual social policies that focus on the participation and awareness of the people involved”.

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