12/13/2017, 13.28
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Vietnamese Catholics serving the poor and children at Christmas

by Paul N. Hung

About 9.79 per cent of the country’s population lives in poverty, 5.27 per cent are at risk. About 1.5 million children live in difficult situations. Various social and charitable groups are undertaking a number of initiatives for the upcoming holidays. About three thousand children are expected at the Christmas Festival organised by Caritas Saigon. The diocese of Hanoi and the Goethe Institute are working together to raise funds.

Saigon (AsiaNews) – For Vietnamese Catholics, the period of Advent and Christmas offers an opportunity to renew their social and charitable work in favour of the poor and of needy children.

Members of the Catholic community are involved every day and their efforts are not limited to providing meals or basic necessities, but extend to pastoral initiatives and activities aimed at educating young people and helping the poor, be they Catholic or not.

With the Christmas holidays approaching, Fr Peter Trần Văn Hải, vicar of the parish of Triệu Phong, in the north-central province of Quảng Trị, said that "Christmas is the time when gifts are exchanged. God’s gifts are love and the sharing of concerns. God has left to humanity a final Will, which is love and service."

"To fulfill His will, He invites all of His peoples, all Vietnamese Catholics at home and abroad, to sacrifice something for the poor at Christmas time. For this reason, there are many charities – such as Hands of Love, Association of Silent Service, Association of Grace, Association of Friends – that help and work with the unfortunate, the poor, and sick children, regardless of their religion," the priest said.

Responding enthusiastically to the appeals of Pope Francis in favour of the latter, Caritas Saigon has worked with many social and religious organisations to prepare a Christmas Festival, with the theme ‘Coming to Love’.

This coming Saturday, some three thousand children living in special and difficult circumstances will participate.

Volunteers will also welcome 3,361 employees of 48 social organisations, as well as 242 blind children, 523 deaf, 133 with severe disabilities, 333 disabled, 1,769 cared for by the organisation and 361 Catholic and non-Catholic social workers.

On 21 December, a concert organised by the Goethe Institute will be held at the church of Cửa Bắc in Hanoi to raise funds for the unfortunate.

"All donations will support the poor and there will be no religious discrimination", says the leaflet advertising the event, the first due to the collaboration between the diocese of the capital and the institute.

Despite Vietnam’s recent economic development, poverty is still widespread in the country.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, 2.31 million people or 9.79 per cent of the population lived in poverty in 2016, whilst more than 1.24 million households were at risk of poverty, or 5.27 per cent.

Government data also indicate that around 1.5 million children live in very difficult circumstances.

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