09/03/2019, 13.35
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Inspired by the Pope, the Vietnamese Church promotes the integration of migrants

by Thanh Thuy

The bishops organised a national conference. Bishop Joseph Đỗ Mạnh Hùng calls for "realistic and concrete" pastoral care. Since 1979, many Vietnamese priests and religious assist their compatriots in various Asian countries.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Helping Vietnamese workers to integrate into their Asian countries of emigration is the latest initiative of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam (CBCV)

The episcopal Commission for the pastoral care of migrants organised a national conference on the subject on 27-29 August on the island of Phú Quốc, in the Diocese of Long Xuyên.

Mgr Joseph Đỗ Mạnh Hùng, apostolic administrator of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), stressed that the pastoral care of the Vietnamese Church for migrants must be "realistic and concrete". Citing Pope Francis, the bishop sad that the goal is to "welcome, protect, promote and integrate".

Mgr John Baptist Jung Shin-chul, president of the Commission for the pastoral care of migrants of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK) attended the event along with those responsible for each of Vietnam’s 27 dioceses.

Bishop Jung spoke about pastoral outreach for migrants in South Korea, explaining the situation of Vietnamese Catholics in his country, some 5,000 who live, work or study in 10 of the 16 local dioceses.

Peter Trần Thanh Lương, president of TIC-International Joint Stock Company, a company that sends abroad Vietnamese workers and students, also spoke at the conference.

Trần focused on their living conditions in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and other Asian countries, highlighting "the many difficulties" migrants are forced to face.

Taiwan is one of the main destinations for Vietnamese migrant workers, who are employed mainly in manufacturing, fishing or as domestic workers.

Fr John Trần Văn Thiết carries out his missionary work on the island. The Scalabrinian priest, who works at the Diocesan Migration Office in Taipei, explained how the Taiwanese Church assists and supports the many Vietnamese immigrants, Catholic and non-Catholic.

In recent years, the number of Vietnamese migrants has steadily increased. According to Taiwan Migration Bureau data, there are currently some 200,000 Vietnamese in the country, over 26,000 of whom are undocumented. On average, their monthly salary is between US$ 600 and US0.

In order to move to what is described to them as a "promised land", many workers pile up huge debts with brokerage agencies and are often tied to contracts they signed without understanding the language.

Fr Nguyễn Văn Hùng is one of more than 120 priests from Vietnam who provide pastoral care to migrants in Taiwan.

"Many Vietnamese want to continue to live on the island,” Fr Nguyễn explained, “even after they leave the companies they worked for or their employment contract is over. They hide from the authorities, which is illegal."

"At present, religious and non-governmental organisations are fighting to protect workers' rights. In particular, they ask for the elimination of intermediaries," he added.

Since 1979, the year when emigration from the country peaked, many Vietnamese priests and religious volunteered to help their compatriots in countries like the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. In the first of these nations, today there are over 200.

In 2019, the Vietnamese still represent the largest group of migrant workers in Taiwan. Due to a strong demand for labour, migration to Japan is also on the rise.

Conversely, the number of Vietnamese workers in South Korea is dropping after the country’s 58 districts banned "exporting labour to South Korea".

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