• Wartakanlah Injil kepada segala makhluk.
    Mrk 16:15

  • 你们往普天下去, 向一切受造物宣传福音
    谷 16:15

  • Everything is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit’s Grace.
    St Arnold Janssen

  • Segala sesuatu menjadi mungkin dalam kekuatan karunia Roh Kudus.
    St. Arnold Janssen

  • 我当传教士不是为主牺牲,而是上主给我的最大恩赐

  • Với sức mạnh Ân Huệ của Chúa Thánh Thần, Mọi việc đều có thể được.
    St Arnoldus Janssen

  • Preach the Gospel to the whole creation./Anh em hãy đi khắp tứ phương thiên hạ, loan báo Tin Mừng cho mọi loài thọ tạo
    Mk 16:15

  • There are many different gifts, but it is always the same Spirit.
    1 Cor 12:4

  • And the Word became flesh and lived among us.
    Jn 1:14

  • Let the word of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you.
    Col 3:16

  • To proclaim the Good News is the first and greatest act of love of neighbour.
    St Arnold Janssen

  • 传扬天国福音是第一且最大的爱近人行动

  • Có nhiều đặc sủng khác nhau, nhưng chỉ có một Thần Khí/
    1 Cor. 14:4

  • 圣言成了血肉,寄居在我们中间
    若 1:14

  • Ada rupa-rupa karunia, tetapi Roh satu
    1 Kor 12:4

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Wednesday, 27 November 2019 18:19

The human tragedy behind the news - reflection


Fr Michael Hardie 150By Fr Michael Hardie SVD, JPIC Co-ordinator.

The recent deaths of 39 Vietnamese citizens in the back of a freezing, airless container truck in the British county of Essex in October this year, after a long and dangerous journey from their departure point at Zeebrugge, Belgium, highlights what has become an all-too-common way for economic migrants to enter Europe in search of Nirvana. Discovered dead in the back of the container when the truck stopped at its destination in the northeast of London, the 39 were originally mistaken for Chinese. Further investigation, however, and the existence of a solitary, despairing text message from one of the young stowaways as she breathed her last, revealed that they were Vietnamese. Most were young, many of them from the northern Vietnamese provinces of Ha Tinh and Nghe An.  All had left their homeland with the help of the people smuggling networks which are so pervasive in today’s world of labour export and people trafficking.

CaptureOnce the stories of the 39 started to come to light, we began to understand why people would leave their families and home villages for an uncertain promise of a better life. Much of rural Vietnam is poor, with few possibilities for families to rise above the poverty line. The countries of Europe, with their promise of ‘the good life’ and fabulous salaries for a day’s work, are the gold glittering on the horizon of the imagination of young Vietnamese, who see the opportunity of a job in Germany, England or anywhere, as a way to help their families and ageing parents out of poverty and debt. Because of visa restrictions, the only way to achieve the dream is to seek the help of the people smuggling networks. Those who do make it to another country such as England, always deeply in more debt due to exorbitant traffickers’ fees, soon find themselves in illegal work situations such as labouring on farms for minute salaries, becoming petty servants for the overlords of illegal industries, or forced to tend illegal cannabis crops in the basements of suburbia or deep in the English countryside. Discovery, imprisonment and deportation may follow. Nirvana quickly becomes hell on earth.

The 39 didn’t make it that far. The fees each of them had paid – tens of thousands of UK pounds – did not guarantee them a safe arrival. To those who made the promises, who supplied the false passports, who drove the trucks, they were only freight. Numbers on a tick sheet. As human beings, they had less value than the cargo in the container, to be shipped from A to B in the dead of night. Just another job.

I knew nobody in that freezing container, but I felt the cold hand of their untimely deaths. In the 14 years I served as a missionary in Vietnam, I became familiar with the poverty and the need of people from her provinces. I understood what drove young Vietnamese to leave their beautiful villages and seek jobs in other lands, because I met so many of them in the cities of Saigon and Hanoi, who had left their families for the ‘big smoke’ to seek their fortunes and lift their parents out of debt. Most were exploited in the cities, and went back to the countryside owing even more, but they had had the experience and they still had love and hope. Going overseas, then, was just another step for a people who never give up.

Fr Michael Hardie spent 14 years in mission in Vietnam, from 1997 to 2011. He is now the JPIC (Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation) Co-ordinator for the Australia Province, and the Director of Professional Standards and Safeguarding.

PHOTO: Screenshot, TVNZ.