Recently, in Charterhouse Chronicle and in your correspondence columns. there has emerged a grim and ghastly picture of "the continued suffering in Vietnam" — especially the suffering of Catholics.
Yet many reports, from the most reputable and reliable sources, paint a very different picture from the one of suffering and persecution. If we are seeking to know what is happening in that tragic country, surely we must be willing to examine all accounts — favourable as well as unfavourable?
My esteem for the Catholic Herald's respect for truth — even if it appears at times in unexpected places — prompts me to submit some extracts from two reports giving this opposite view. The first is by a veteran Vietnam reporter, Tiziano Terzani, whose reports were the first to come out of Vietnam after its fall to the Communists.
Terzani is the Far East correspondent for the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel. The following extracts are taken from his firsthand account of the revolutionary process from April 27 to July 31, 1975: 'For years American and Saigon propaganda had projected an inhuman image of this 'faceless enemy'. Coloured posters describing the horrors of life under COmmunism had been affixed at all street corners. The Vietcong was not a man, but a monster which sharpened teeth . "The only building in Saigon over which the flags of Hanoi or the National Liberation Front ('Viet cong') never waved was the cathedral. There had not even been an attempt to hoist it. This was a sign of respect on the part of the new authorities.
"The first Sunday (after the Communist take-over), when the city's churches filled up us usual, many young bo dot (soldiers of the 'Liberation army') in uniform came to hear Mass with the other faithful.
"The revolution had long promised to leave the population their freedom of religion, and when it took power it kept this pledge."
The second report was written by Fr Michael Pomedli, OSB, of Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada, alter his return from Vietnam in July. 1975. He was a member of an 'International delegation invited to Vietnam by the .Hanoi Committee of Catholics; his trip was sponsored by the Canadian Catholic Organisation for Development and Peace: "'There have been no attacks against religion. The government is pursuing a policy of tolerance. I believe in the sincerity of the Government,' said the coadjutor Archbishop of Hanoi, Trinh van Can.
"'Recently. 5,000 copies of the New Testament in Vietnamese, which were printed in Hanoi. were distributed — although there is a serious shortage of paper in North Vietnam.'
The government of North Vietnam honours the belief of Christians'. Vo Thai Hoa, editor of the Catholic weekly Ching Nghia (Just Cause) said through his interpreter. 'The freedorti of religion is written into the Constitution and there is a Department of Religion to ensure the freedom of religious beliefs, the communication and harmony between different religious groups'."
Josephine Jemmetl 15 Church Terrace, London, SE13.