Easter Among Lepers in Vietnam

KONTUM, Vietnam, APR. 13, 2001 (ZENIT.orgFIDES).- Father Nguyen Van Dong, of the Kontum Diocese in central Vietnam, will spend Easter proclaiming the Gospel and comforting the lepers of Kontum.

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The diocese has 30 priests, the majority elderly and sick, and 180,000 faithful. Seventy percent of the latter are “montagnards,” non-Vietnamese natives who live in the jungle.

Father Van Dong, 61, parish priest of Sa Thay, works in the area with the greatest number of lepers in Vietnam, who are disregarded by the government. There are few state leprosariums in the country, which often lack crucial medicines.

Father Van Dong, who visits leprosariums in a radius of at least 42 miles, told the missionary agency Fides: “The people of those places are really poor, perhaps the poorest in the country. They are very happy when they see me arrive; they look at me and smile. When they smile, I cry. They are poor and lepers; when I offer them gifts from my parishioners, they grab them so that no one will taken them away.”

“They can only count to 100,” the Catholic priest added. “They survive thanks to the help they receive, and ask no questions.”

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