ASIA/VIETNAM - New Catholic church in the north-east of the country, among the "hill tribes": state media reports

Monday, 24 October 2022 local churches   mission   indigenous   evangelization  

Bac Kan (Agenzia Fides) - In the missionary month, on the eve of World Mission Day, a new Catholic church was consecrated and opened for worship in the Northeast of Vietnam, in an area populated by the "hill tribes" (or Montagnard), the indigenous Hmong and Dao peoples who live in the border areas with China.
As Fides learned, at the consecration mass of the new Na Phac church, dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Msgr. Cosma Hoang Van Dat, bishop of the diocese of Bac Ninh, which covers that territory, said : "Today is a happy day in the land of Na Phac; it is a great blessing because the people of God can gather in this new church and celebrate the liturgical rites in unity with the universal Church. Let us continue to pray that in this church many people will be baptized and become sons and daughters of God, become witnesses of his love and bring the joy and love of God to others. May the Lord use the faithful of this community so that the Good News and the love of God reach many people in the Na Phac area, as well as in the remote places of the province of Bac Kan, in this region of the northeast of Vietnam".
Next to the church, a series of rooms form a kind of simple school for children and young people from indigenous groups who, thanks to the commitment of the priests and religious, have the opportunity to attend school.
As Father Joseph Nguyen Van Tinh, Redemptorist priest and parish priest of Bac Kan, a province in which Na Phac is located, points out, "this is the first church to be built on this land and it is a strong sign of faith for Catholics who live in this province of Bac Kan". The church, reports the parish priest to Fides, who has the pastoral responsibility of the new building of worship, was built and completed to allow local faithful to celebrate Mass and the sacraments, and to meet God in the life of faith. "In recent times - he says - there is pastoral ferment: the faithful participate in many pastoral activities of the local church and the faithful joyfully live their faith and their daily life".
The first seeds of faith in Na Phac were planted in 1979, when some Catholics from war-torn areas went to Na Phac to hide. At first, few people gathered to pray in the evenings and, in the following years, the small community of Na Phac gradually developed, thanks in part to the subsequent visit and presence of priests and religious. "With the proclamation of the Gospel, people from many ethnic groups met God and embraced him. So far, 450 Hmong and Dao people have been baptized," says Father Tinh. "Bac Kan province has about 1,200 Catholics, mainly from ethnic minorities, and among them the largest number are from the Hmong tribe".
As they live far from the Bac Kan parish church, Father Tinh travels a distance of about 170 km through the forests to celebrate Sunday mass with these faithful. But it is an effort that gives joy, because "I find children, young people and families happy to see me and celebrate the sacraments. Currently, about 300 new families have expressed their desire to be baptized in these remote territories", he tells Fides.
In the diocese of Bac Ninh, Catholics are about 150,000 out of a population of almost 9 million, that is, 1.65%. In particular, in the province of Bac Kan, the faithful are about 1,200 out of a total population of about 315,000 inhabitants, which represents less than 0.4%. However, this small presence is appreciated in the area, by local society and institutions, as evidenced by the articles published in the local media. "There is a church in a remote area that sows precious seeds of knowledge for the students", writes the state newspaper "Tien Phong", reporting on the new church. The article states: "Na Phac Church, belonging to Bac Kan Parish, is not only a place to worship God, but also to educate hundreds of children from remote areas, providing children of ethnic groups study opportunities". And he continues: "Before Father Joseph Nguyen Van Tinh arrived here, these lands only had a temporary wooden hut, a place used for prayer and study. In addition to carrying out their mission, the religious and priests also used this place to teach and have joined the community to take these children to school. Now, with the help of many people and organizations, the priests have built a spacious, clean and beautiful church for mass celebrations and also a dormitory for poor minority students from mountainous areas. At present, the Na Phac church accommodates a hundred students".
Another state newspaper, the "Dan Viet", has published an article entitled "Bac Kan: special teachers at the Na Phac church", and states: "For some years now, the small church located along the river in the mountains and forests of Na Phac, Bac Kan province, has become a second home for many children from the mountain ethnic groups who come to the church not only to study catechism, but also to learn mathematics and English. The priests have helped the villagers to be good citizens, respect the law and preserve the local culture and language". The article adds: "In addition to teaching the Bible, priests have spread marriage and family law, teach respect for neighbors, institutions, the environment and avoid social ills." The newspaper quotes the words of Joseph Duong Van Dinh, an ethnic Hmong man, baptized at Christmas 2014, who says: "I am grateful to the priests who communicate the Gospel message, but also help the economy and the lives of local villagers. When a problem arises in a family or there are conflicts between the villagers, the priests come to bring reconciliation and teach mutual love and forgiveness". (AD/PA) (Agenzia Fides, 24/10/2022)