It’s been decades since I fled South Vietnam to escape the war, but it all comes flooding back as I see footage of people clambering onto planes in Afghanistan, writes Parramatta Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv. Source: Eureka Street.
I was one of the boat people who escaped from South Vietnam. The escape happened after South Vietnam had fallen to the Vietnamese communist forces in 1975, and my world descended into total chaos.
My parents encouraged my siblings and me to escape. The boat journey was risky, and there were far more people on the boat than it could carry safely. By the third day, we’d run out of food, water and fuel and were at the mercy of the elements. On the seventh day, we drifted near an oil rig, half alive and half dead. Fortunately, we were rescued, and brought to a refugee camp off the coast of Malaysia, where I stayed for over a year.
In December 1981, I was accepted and brought to a country I knew nothing about: Australia. Here, I built a new life, and worked hard to become a priest, a dream that I had held since I was 13 years old. Growing up in war and later transiting in a refugee camp, all I wanted to do was to help people who suffered, and so in Australia I was finally able to follow that dream properly.
My Catholic faith compels me to try to address injustices, including ones that remind me of what I and my loved ones experienced in Vietnam.
I also believe that people of faith, and Australians more broadly, must stand for social and moral issues, because this is the only way that we can build the world we want to see in the future. And this is a pivotal moment for us to step up and support those in need in Afghanistan. I hope to see the same level of bipartisan support for Afghan refugees now as there was for Vietnamese refugees then.
Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv STL DD is chair of the Bishops Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service within the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.
Our moral duty towards Afghan refugees (Eureka Street)