12/23/2008, 00.00
VIETNAM
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In Ho Chi Minh City children sing Christmas carols, say prayers for justice and peace

by JB. VU
Children from a local parish take to the streets every evening, surrounded by people. A survey weighs the importance the family and the environment have on young people’s upbringing. For the bishop of Vinh Long “power seems to prevail over justice and one’s conscience,” exerting its negative influence.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Every evening during the Christmas break hundreds of children aged 8 to 12 from Ho Chi Minh City’s Binh An Thuong parish walk down Pham The Hien Street, singing Christmas carols and praying for peace, justice and truth in Vietnam, surrounded by large crowds, mostly Buddhists or ancestor worshippers.

In the Ho Chi Minh City parents are faced today with the challenge of their children’s moral upbringing. Mr Le, a high school teacher, told AsiaNews that a survey on parents’ education and the environment’s effect on children in the city, showed that 26 per cent of respondents live in peaceful areas compared to 21.7 per cent who reside in noisy quarrel-prone areas; at the same time, 32.6 per cent said that adults take care of their children compared to 19.6 who said they did not. The sample included some 150 participants. A child’s environment is thus crucial for his or her upbringing.

About 52.2 per cent of parents believe that if children are raised in a good environment, they will grow up well. If not children will end up picking up the bad habits of adults and the wider environment, habits like lying, unfairness, cheating (on exams or forged degrees, for example), etc.

“We are concerned about the moral education of our children and the impact of their environment, said Ms Hang, who took part in a parenthood counselling class offered by the Archdiocese of Saigon. “Caring for our children is only one aspect of reality. There are also bad influences like bad friends, unfairness in life and lies that shape children’s developmental process,” she said.

“Perhaps I am but a ‘voice in the desert’ (Mt, 3:3), ‘tieng keu trong sa mac’ in Vietnamese, said Mgr Nguyen Van Tan, bishop of Vinh Long as he, too, contemplated the apparent loss of meaning in today’s life.

“Today power seems to prevail over justice and one’s conscience, especially at a time when materialism overwhelms morality, charity and justice,” he said. “Still I must raise my voice so that future generations will not condemn us as those who had eyes but could not see, had ears but did not hear and had a mouth but dared not to speak.”

Around the world everyone is beginning to celebrate Christmas but many in Vietnam are experiencing anxiety, feeling threatened and enduring discrimination in their environment.

Let us pray fir instance for the sisters, priests and parishioners of Thai Ha as well as the parents and children of the Church of Vietnam.

Let us pray for the Sisters of the Congregation of Saint Paul who had their house torn down by the authorities in Vinh Long to give way to a hotel, thrown out even though they worked, prayed and provided social and pastoral assistance to orphans.

The authorities have failed to understand the sisters and have instead condemned them, claiming that “for 31 years they have educated unlucky children to be a counterrevolutionary force opposed to the Revolution and the country’s freedom.”

Yet it is not so. Vietnamese Catholics have worked and contributed to the overall development of children and teenagers as well as of the country as a whole.

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