07/16/2005, 00.00
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Vietnam: Tribal peoples increasingly feel part of the Catholic community

A parish in the northwest of the country is 100 years old: the Eucharistic celebration features songs and readings in the languages of local ethnic minorities.

Nghia Lo (AsiaNews/UCAN) – A mass with readings in Thai, H'mong and Vietnamese languages: this has taken place in Nghia Lo parish in northwest Vietnam, where tribal peoples of Dao, H'mong and Thai ethnicities feel ever more part of and integrated in the life of the local Catholic community.

The parish, which has 1,267 members, is situated 265km northwest of Hanoi. This year, it is holding its centenary celebrations; festivities started this month and they will go on until October. The outcome of evangelization efforts by the parish priest, Fr Hong, emerged clearly during the mass to launch centenary celebrations. Around half of the 5,000 participants belonged to ethnic minorities, and they had the opportunity to listen to the readings in their own language, while a group of Thai youths presented gifts at the altar in the offertory.

Marie Dinh Thi Nga, a Thai girl, described the event as "unprecedented". She said: "Being invited to attend Mass and read the Scriptures at such a great religious event has been memorable for the Thai people."

On the eve of the liturgy, youths from various ethnicities sang and put on dramas from their traditional repertoires. Nga, an 18-year-old Thai girl, said that now "our people have close ties with other groups, and we no longer discriminate against each other". According to the girl, the tribal youths were now coming closer to Catholicism because "traditional songs, dance and music are used in religious ceremonies, something which never happened in the past".

Fr Hong, 45 years, said the initiative aims to "enhance the role of tribal people in the region helping them to feel respected and loved, and to realize that Catholicism is for all peoples without distinction of race."

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