When arriving in the Hai Hau District of Nam Dinh province these days, one can feel the inspired spirit of the officials and inhabitants as they build their own development model of rural area.
Hai Hau is developing fast and in every single new house, school and concrete road, the evidence of a strong community is prevalent.
In Hai Phuong Commune, Hai Hau district, 40 percent of the population are Catholics. From early morning, the echoing sound of the bell leads people to the church and their faces brighten with the simple happiness their faith gives them.
After two years of putting together a new rural development programme, the average income of the local residents has reached VND17 million per annum. More than 87 percent of all households have received the ‘Cultural Family’ title, 90 percent of families have a maximum of two children and over 95 percent of local households have access to clean water.
All roads in the commune are now paved with concrete and the education system, from nursery school to secondary school, is up to national standards. Security and social order of the commune are ensured. And furthermore, Churches and chapels are upgraded and spacious. Looking at the commune today, few people could imagine that just five years ago, Hai Phuong was a poor commune of Hai Hau.
Vu Van Hung, the Chairman of the Hai Phuong chapter of the Vietnam Fatherland Front said that the commune has achieved 13 out of the 19 criteria set for new development models of rural areas, thanks to the solidarity of the local people, regardless of whether they are Catholics or not. The local Catholics always make active and constructive contributions to the commune, especially in raising production levels, expanding trade links, or donating land to develop the local infrastructure, he said.
With the introduction of this programme, unity among the locals here has also become stronger. Nowadays, there is no distinction made between Catholics and non-Catholics. They study, work and strive to make their own village a beautiful and prosperous place together.
Three kilometres from Hai Phuong is Hai Duong commune, where over the generations a tale about the Doi River , which once divided inhabitants living on both banks, is often told. On one side the residents are Catholics, while on the other side of the ‘border’ the people are non-Catholics.
Older people in the commune say that in the past, people living on one side of the river could not get married to those from the other side. That meant Catholics were banned from marrying non-Catholics. Due to this unwritten rule, many couples were unable to live together as husband and wife.
“We could be friends, but could absolutely not become husband and wife”, says Vu Thi Nhai, 54, a local resident. “The main reason was the difference in religion, our traditional customs and the way we live. We non-Catholics believe in Buddha, while the Catholics go to church every week”.
This all belongs to the past.
Today, together with rapid development and positive changes in the nation, Hai Duong has been chosen as one of 11 pilot communes in the country to implement the programme to build new development models of rural areas, and the local people’s way of thinking has clearly changed.
They understand that despite all the differences in their religions and practices, both Catholics and non-Catholics share the same dream of having happy and prosperous lives.
Mai Thi Xuan, 20, who is married to a non-Catholics man, confides that at first, she was a bit hesitant as she was worried about the religious differences. But then she decided that the biggest thing that ensures happiness is love.
The wedding was held in a way that pleased both the bride and groom’s families. They registered with the local government and introduced the relatives on the groom’s side, then went to the church to receive a blessing from the Reverend Father.
Two years later, she is well acquainted with her new family and keeps going to church every weekend. Their small family is always happy and the new addition, a lovely one year old baby boy, makes them even happier.
Nguyen Van Cuong, 24, married a Catholic girl earlier this year. He said that before the wedding, he took a catechism class for two months. Now, he goes to church every week with his wife.
“I feel happy about going to the church. It’s also good for me, as we all want to do good in the world”, said Cuong.
The Doi River is now no longer a ‘border’ that separates the people on both banks, but connects both Catholics and non-Catholics together with love and solidarity in a united and harmony community.
This is one of the main factors to contribute to bringing about positive changes in a locality that is joining in with the nation’s integration process.
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