The seventies will be remembered in Southeast Asia and, to some extent in the whole world, as the period of the refugee problem. It began with the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, and has driven hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese in desperate flight to neighboring countries, the Philippines being one of the main objectives. This catastrophic misfortune has had, in the Providence of God, two side effects which serve in some degree to inspire hope that its long term consequences will not be entirely bad. It has, first of all, shown up better than a thousand books the inhumanity of Communist regimes. These regimes have forced thousands and thousands of people, many of them women and children, to leave their homes and follow perilous paths to safety and freedom. The refugee problem has exposed the real soul of Communism, a subject on which even some good people, including priests and nuns, are woefully misled.
A second effect has been a manifestation of brotherly charity and solidarity. Countries throughout the world have responded to the challenge with astonishing magnanimity, giving generously of their resources and working harmoniously to a solution. Paul Hartling, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, says that the United States is accepting for resettlement 14,000 refugees a month, a gesture which he characterizes as unprecedented in history. This example is followed by many other countries. Japan has contributed very generously to the establishment of the processing center at Morong, Bataan. Thus the refugee problem has proved that it is possible for the nations of the world to work together in fraternal sharing and solidarity.
The Philippines has been admirable for its humane policy with respect to the refugees. The Jose Fabella Center is the first place that comes to mind in this regard. Some 11,000 refugees have passed through it since 1975. At the present time, there are about 1,400 in the center. When Commissioner Hartling visited the center recently, he was impressed by the excellent condition of the refugees, their appearance of health and contentment.
More recent is the establishment of the processing center in Morong, Bataan. Not long ago, 1,141 refugees arrived from Malaysia to remain in Morong until their admission to a third country. There were 9,000 refugees at Morong as of June 30th. Commissioner Hartling found Morong the most satisfactory of the refugee centers visited in Southeast Asia, characterized it as really “first class”. He was impressed too, by th espeed with which the facilities had been readied.
The Philippines is a country of temporary refuge for those arriving directly from Vietnam. Here the refugees will be prepared for adoption by a host country, learning the language, skills and customs to fit them for a new environment.
Not to be forgotten in the discussion of refugees is the work the Church is doing for those Vietnamese for whom the Philppines is to become a home. Many have come here as dependents of Filipinos, in search of husbands and fathers. Caritas Manila and the Center for Assistance to Displaced Persons, under the Episcopal Commission on Migration and Tourism, help them in a number of ways by social services, particularly child care program, skills training, education, employment, housing, translation of documents, etc.
We wish to commend all those who have devoted themselves to these unfortunate people in any way. The number of refugees has been greatly reduced in the past few months, but there is still much work to be done and all are encouraged to continue their Christlike solicitude.
We have said above that the record of the Philippines has been truly magnanimous. This is as it should be. We encourage our country to continue this great work of Christian charity, in conjunction with other countries. We appeal to our Catholic people, in public and private life, not to allow this excellent apostolate to falter.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+JAIME L. CARDINAL SIN
Archbishop of Manila
July 6, 1980
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