ASIA/VIETNAM - Going out of oneself to meet God and neighbour: the mission of young people, who are not afraid to touch misery, poverty and violence

Tuesday, 29 November 2022 evangelization   poverty   violence   school   faith   mission  

Viet Tri (Agenzia Fides) - The Hung National Temple, located in the city of Viet Tri, in the territory of the diocese of Hung Hoa, is the place where the Hung kings gave life to Vietnam 4000 years ago. This land is respected by all the Vietnamese people as an ancestral place, of great historical and cultural value for the country, where the origins of the nation are preserved. Choosing it to host a gathering of some 15,000 young Catholics from 11 dioceses in northern Vietnam was a way of reminding baptized young people of the meaning and preciousness of their origins. The Archbishop of Hanoi, Joseph Vu Van Thien, underlined in his address to the congress, centered on the theme "Let's go to the peripheries", which was held on November 26 and 27: "This meeting encourages us to come out of ourselves to meet God and meet our neighbour. This congress aims to promote the mission of evangelization".
Meeting the "periphery" means not being afraid to come into contact with misery, poverty, violence. In particular, the issue of school violence in Vietnam is a phenomenon which, without relating to a specific locality, appears more and more frequently in the national media.
In a survey conducted by Ho Chi Minh City's "Law Newspaper" among 100 teachers and 250 students from 10 schools in the city, 57% of teachers believe, from experience, that violence in schools is on the increase. These include acts of violence and intimidation between students or abuse of students by teachers. According to data published in national media, levels of violence are common among students, regardless of their economic status. Sociologists note that there is no single explicit reason or motivation to explain the phenomenon, which has very diverse roots and motivations. In a young country like Vietnam, where more than 50% of the population is under 30, adequate intervention, they say, requires effort and closer cooperation between families and schools.
Creating a healthy educational environment is one of the development priorities for the future of the country.
These issues were discussed during the gathering of young Catholics. Archbishop Marek Zalewski, non-resident representative of the Holy See in Vietnam, pointed to a model for the young people: "In view of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, we must pay attention and learn from our Mother, the Virgin Mary, raising our voices to say 'Yes', as she did, to overcome the difficulties and challenges of our time. When we say 'yes' to God, it means that we love our country, that we love our friends and that we love ourselves: by turning our hearts to God in faith, we will be able to face the difficulties of daily life. Let us follow the example of Christ in welcoming and loving everyone, including the the poor, the sick, the vulnerable, the lepers: because what we love is transformed".
In his report entitled "Let's go to the periphery", Father Joseph Nguyen Ngoc Ngoan, vice-president of the Commission on the pastoral mission of the laity of the Vietnamese Episcopal Conference, posed some questions: "Where is the 'periphery' for the young people today? And underlined: "Young people must be ready to accept change, to go beyond the borders of prejudice and fear to get closer to the poorest, the suffering, the marginalized".
The presence of 15,000 young participants in the congress, representing young people from their dioceses, shows that many young Catholics in Vietnam are actively participating in the life of their parish communities. They are the ones who bring the Good News to their neighbours, carrying out daily apostolic practices, actively involving themselves in acts of social charity, in the work of communication and in local associations. During the congress, young people who work as catechists offered their testimony, preaching the Word of God to children and accompanying them on their way to the sacraments.
Msgr. Dominic Hoang Minh Tien, Bishop of the Diocese of Hung Hoa, in his homily during the Thanksgiving Mass, recalled "the fundamental choice of young Catholics who choose to follow the person of Christ and seek to pursue this path". In addition, the Bishop invited the young people to step out of their comfort zone: "Get out of your ordinary places of life, to come closer to the poor of the periphery, where so many people need your help and your love. Come out of yourselves, leave material comforts, modern structures, false security and cold indifference to be close to vulnerable people: let's go out to be able to comfort them, encourage them, share them and walk together with them.
Let us follow the example of Jesus who always goes towards the suburbs to get close to everyone and announce the Good News of the Kingdom of God".
He continued, "How can we bring God to others if we do not have God within ourselves? How can we be strong enough to set out if we don't know how to imitate Jesus?" The bishop cited the sad and alarming phenomenon of school violence: the image of so many aggressive young people who deal with conflicts "with fists and knives" was skillfully portrayed by the young people of the Vinh diocese in a play of theater and evocative music proposed during the meeting. The solution, according to the bishop, is "to learn from the master, Jesus Christ, and to learn 'the lesson' of God's love".
It was with these words that the Vinh youth play concluded: "Come with us; going to the periphery means disconnecting from the internet to connect directly with the people around you, especially those who live in remote areas and have material and spiritual needs (PA/AD) (Agenzia Fides, 29/11/2022)