THE VIETNAM WESTERN HIGHLAND AND THE BAUXITE DISASTER, S.O.S !
The first Reading of Easter Sunday III-year B extracted from The Acts of Apostles makes us really stunned. Peter was among his Jewish people, spoke to them firmly, reminded them of Jesus’ case and accused them, “You rejected this holy, righteous one and instead demanded the release of a murderer. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. And we are witnesses of this fact ! You killed the author of life” ( cf. Acts 3, 15 )
Peter did not grumble or blame anyone, but it seems to us that Peter was sorrowfully talking to everyone, even to himself, because Peter was a confederate in the injustice Death of Jesus. In that way, Peter not only talked to the Jewish two thousand years ago, but also to each of us nowadays.
We really appreciate the way Peter refers to Jesus “The Author of Life”. We would like to use this term when we mention the hot problem, bauxite exploitation, in Vietnam, our country these days.
Never in the past has the world talked about the environment as they do today. The problem is no longer a gossip or a story that does not have any influences on us. Our Earth has become a “bitter fruit”, Our Green Planet has become a grey planet. Our natural environment has become a death-causing environment. After many years of prudence, the Catholic Church nows determines that destruction of the environment is a serious sin.
Facing Bauxite problem, we read in the Social Doctrine of the Church, a work cordially contributed by Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan:
“Man must not “make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray”. When he acts in this way, “instead of carrying out his role as a co-operator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed by him”. ( Article 461 )
In fact, the destruction of the environment is a crime to the world and a serious sin to God, according to the Catholicism. The serious sin is the trespass against God, against Life, killing “The Author of Life”.
In Vietnam, for many years they have had an annoyingly insisent propaganda, instilling into the heads of several generations after the Vietnam war: “Our country is still in poverty; all of us have to try our best to gradually overcome the results of the war”.
Then they try to exploit the soil by planting too many crops, putting a burden on the soil year after year. They overcrop the fields which supply us with rice, precious pearls for our life.
They turn thousands of hectares of agricultural land which supports poor farmers into big golf courses surrounded by B40 nets, reserving for foreigners and government officials only.
They encourage destroying dikes preventing salt water in order to get water for shrimp farming. Finally, shrimps are dead, and the vast fields have to be fertilized at least 50 years before rice can be grown again.
They allow state-owned ships to fish everywhere in the sea, catch fish of all sizes with various kinds of equipment in such a way that finally the sea has to cry because fish nearly extinct!
They have built luxurious expensive highways along our country without thinking carefully, and spend billions of Vietnamese Dong, which destroys forest belt and makes the lower impoverished fields suffer from hoorible floods and droughts.
They turn the deaf ears and blind eyes to foreign companies exhausting poisonous air and waste water, polluting the river where the poor earn their living everyday. As a result, dust makes the sky grey, birds are dead, plants become withered, children and elders suffer from acute lung diseases.
And for two years now, they have become so inconsiderate that they have eagerly sold off the Western Highland, the rooftop of Indochina for bauxite exploitation. Poor ethnic minorities were dazed to move to other areas giving places to thousands of imported Chinese laborers. Not only is the soil of the Western Highland producing red viscid watercourse but the Vietnamese also are bleeding when fighting against their so-called neighbors who are really robbers.
In their articles and papers, many authors have analyzed the scientific, living, cultural tragedies and territorial sovereignty threat if the bauxite exploitation starts. We do not need to discuss more. However, as Catholics enlightened by Gospel, we would like to give some warnings.
Yes, we would like to repeat what we mention above: this is warning, now and here, for the very Vietnamese Catholic Church, that “They are killing “the Author of Life”.
Why can we dare to say so ? When people are atheistic – they do not believe in God, they can do everything bad and harmful. They do not have any criteria to base on to distinguish good and evil or bad. For them, conscience is a strange term; compassion is rarely seen. And it is even said that you will be considered to be crazy if you are honest in this age.
When we do the Pro-life ministry, we recognize that when they legalize abortion in our country, there is nothing else to say. When they calmly kill a fetus, they can commit any other crimes.
In the same way, when they repudiate freedom of religion and try their best to persecute religions, of course they do not believe in God, “the Author of Life”, who they owe their life to. And now they are protesting against God. Thus all decisions on economy, politics, culture and education in this country gradually become messy, immoral and conscienceless.
These days the Redemptorist Order in Thai Ha, Hanoi, are being buzzed about the Ba Giang Lake having been violated. It is not the ownership of a lake or a land, but the requirement for Justice and Truth to exist. No one can be greedy to rob the land crazily and cruelly, even though he is supported by violence, weapons and army. Fortunately, the Catholics in Hanoi are also sensitively alert to the bauxite problem. Their “Prayer for Peace” is “Where there is hatred, let me sow love” ( Saint Francis ). The small candles in their hands were not only enlighting the Ba Giang Lake but also have become the torches glowing in the Vietnam Western Highland which is being covered with the obscurity and the dust of the violence.
At the time, it is so late, but we would like to appeal to our Catholic Church, to our Bishops, Priests, Religious Orders and all of the Catholics in our country. We are Catholics, we cannot stand by our country’s life with our fear and hesitation. We cannot wait for one another without courageously making any practical decisions. It is unreasonable if we fear something illusive when we do not fear our conscience, the Holy Spirit’s Voice.
We all know that more and more crimes have been rampant in our country. Millions of abortion cases have been committed per year for a long time. But we have kept quiet. Now we have read, heard and understood how bauxite exploitation does harm to the human life, so if we continue keeping silent, it means we are on the same boat with evils killing “the Author of life”
The intellectuals in Hanoi together with Professor Nguyen Hue Chi have written a petition, sent to the government with the signatures of hundreds of engineers, doctors, professors, writers, poets, journalists to ask them to stop what is happening in Daknong and Lam Dong provinces.
It is time for Our Catholic Church to send petition, although we know however we recommend, they will not accept or change their mind. But at least we should raise the voice of our conscience, because we trust in God, “the Author of Life” so that the sacred life is not longer destroyed in our country. It also means that the Vietnam Catholics are always sympathethic and considerate in the heart of the country.