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VIETNAM: People with physical disabilities attend gathering

Close to 5,000 people with physical disabilities attended a special Christmas gathering


(MissionNewswire) Close to 5,000 people with physical disabilities attended a special gathering to celebrate Christmas at the Divine Mercy Center at the An Lac parish in the Vu Thu district of Vietnam. The participants were served by nearly 1,000 volunteers including college students.

Salesian Bishop Peter Nguyen Van De, emeritus of Thai Binh, started the annual gathering 21 years ago as a professor in the seminary after he ended his Vietnam provincial term in 1996. He believes the event is an opportunity for people with disabilities to interact with one another, take part in recreational and cultural activities, and experience the real love and joy of Christmas.

Bishop Van De said, “Christmas is for all people including people with disabilities as they are also children of God and they should be respected and treated humanely. They set a shining example of how to show solidarity with others.” Bishop Van De was deeply moved by an older man who collected 3 million Vietnamese dong (U.S. $125) from other people with disabilities and offered to support this event, which costs 3 billion dong (U.S. $125,000) and is sponsored by many benefactors.

During the gathering, participants listened to talks about church and marriage, had medical check-ups and received medicine, played traditional games for gifts, watched cultural performances, enjoyed meals, and attended a Mass. Among the Christmas gifts given were also many new wheelchairs.

Nhan, a 34-year-old woman who has complete paralysis, was taken to the center on a special bed by a relative. She has attended this annual event seven times. She said, “I am delighted to attend the gathering where I feel loved and respected, meet other people who have similar conditions, and relax with leisure activities.”

Also in attendance was Linh, who said this was the first time he had gone to a Christmas gathering, which inspired him to overcome his physical condition and enjoy life to the fullest. One of his friends invited him to join this Christmas event.

Bishop Van De, age 76, stepped down as bishop of Thai Binh last October due to his age. He said he will continue to hold these gatherings in the future.

According to the World Bank, close to 14 percent of Vietnam’s population lives in conditions of poverty. The country has seen a drastic reduction of poverty over the last 20 years when the poverty rate was close to 60 percent. Vietnam has also made remarkable progress in education. Primary and secondary enrollments for those in poverty have reached more than 90 percent and 70 percent respectively.

Rising levels of education and diversification into off-farm activities such as working in construction, factories or domestic housework have also contributed to reducing poverty in the country. Salesian programs give impoverished children and families opportunities that are typically only available to the middle and upper classes so that all people can have hope for a better future.



ANS Photo (usage permissions and guidelines must be requested from ANS)

ANS – Vietnam – Christmas is for all people: an initiative by Bishop Peter De, SDB, Thai Binh bishop emeritus, spreads joy among disabled people

Salesian Missions – Vietnam

World Bank – Vietnam

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