A diocese in northern Vietnam has warned about rampant environmental pollution
and asked Catholics to do penance to mark the fourth anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on Sept. 1. Vinh Diocese's Committee for Justice and Peace warned that issues relating to environmental pollution pose health risks to local people who have to deal with contaminated food, toxic chemicals, and fake consumer goods including counterfeit medicines, which are prevalent in markets and shops. The committee blamed the increasing floods, landslides, land erosion, toxic waste disasters
and their consequences on widespread deforestation and poor management of the nation's natural resources by the authorities. It condemned the declining morality of farmers who grow vegetables and raise cattle using toxic chemicals to improve their revenue. As a result, cases of cancer have reached epidemic proportions, it added. Vietnam records 126,000 new cases of cancer every year, with 94,000 people dying as a result of this annually, according to health experts. The five most common forms of cancer in the country are: lung cancer, stomach cancer, cancer of the liver, rectal cancer and breast cancer. The panel also drew attention to how many activists who are committed to environmental protection are prosecuted and jailed unfairly
by Vietnam's autocratic, Communist Party-run government. "This sidelines them and leaves the public ignorant of the damage being done to the environment," it said. "We should do penance for our acts in terms of polluting the environment and change our attitudes," Father Anthony Nguyen Van Dinh, head of the committee, said in an announcement published on Aug. 25. He urged people "to end production of harmful food. We should not chase profit just to compete with others, or close our eyes to social welfare and people's safety." He encouraged all parishes and communities to attend Mass and Adoration sessions and pray for the care of the environment on Sept. 1. Suggested tasks include collecting garbage and cleaning parishes, villages and local vicinities. Father Dinh said Catholics should pray for environmental activists who have been jailed without being given a fair trial. Moreover, they should make efforts to raise awareness of environmental conservation among young people, he said. Vinh Diocese serves over 550,000 Catholics. It is the only one of Vietnam's 26 dioceses that celebrates the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation declared by Pope Francis in 2015.