Vietnamese Archbishop Warns of Consumerism

Sees a Loss of Human Values in Country

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HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam, FEB. 26, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Consumerism is penetrating the Communist nation of Vietnam, warns an archbishop.

Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Mân of Ho Chi Minh said that the country faces the challenge of rediscovering human values in the wake of this assault of consumerism.

In a letter to the Reverend Nguyen Tan Khoa, president of the Vietnamese Patriotic Association, an organization that links the Church to the government, the archbishop noted: «Losing human values is losing people’s dignity.» The message, dated last Christmas, was only now published by the foreign press.

According to the archbishop, «consumerism has been pushing people in the network of shallow and artificial satisfaction. Labor forces have been organized to obtain maximum profits without improving workers’ living conditions and enriching workers’ human values.»

«There is an inversion of means and goals: People who originally were the goal of development, have become means for production,» the archbishop warned.

Moreover, he criticized the «beg and give mechanism» which converts the legitimate rights of citizens into privileges granted by the government in the form of permits.

This procedure means that «a small group of government officials, who have power and social connections, obtain 75% of public funds…. More than 70 million people are only given 25% of the yearly national revenues,» the archbishop continued.

«This sad reality creates severe unfairness and injustice of income distribution in our society and increases the gap between the rich and the poor among our Vietnamese people,» he said.

«Therefore, systematic corruption is a major obstacle to the economic development in our nation and the enrichment of human values,» he added.

In this context, the archbishop believes that what is needed is the enrichment of human values so that society will have a truly human orientation.

«Enriching human values and people’s dignity requires all organizations, institutions and everyone in every social contact» to respect «people as central points of all cultural, economic and social interrelations,» he said. «It means people need to be developed and enriched in all material, spiritual, and psychological aspects to build up human values and dignity.»

On this point, the archbishop also criticized the educational system. «Our current educational system» seems to focus only on teaching «students professional knowledge rather than developing» their «human values,» he wrote.

He stressed that a «society is considered to be in functional order and favorable to human dignity when it is built on the foundation of truthfulness. Basic truthfulness in people’s relations means that everybody is equal in their human values.»

Hence, this «truthfulness requires abolishing all forms of discrimination and differential treatments,» he continued. «Forms of totalitarianism need to be banned. Untruthfulness needs to be rooted out. Lying and cheating currently have been spreading with severely negative impacts on our society and on our people.»

For Archbishop Pham, to enrich «the interdependent spirit between communities and people» is an imperative, aware that the «interdependent spirit can only be built upon the foundation of respect for people themselves and their rights.»

Lastly, the archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) stressed the need to develop the «awareness and willingness» of people to participate in community services.

To do so, the government should eliminate «unfair legislations and administrative measures which are contrary to our traditional moral and ethical standards,» he said.

The «‘beg and give mechanism’ is an example of these unfair legal systems,» added. «Over a million abortion cases every year» is an «example of immoral administrative measures and the terrible consequences that have ensued. Therefore, the future of our people is quite gloomy and uncertain.»

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