Jarai, Banah, K’ho
By Anton Tran Xuan Anh C.Ss.R.
In Vietnam each year I went to live and work among the indigenous peoples of the highlands, the Jarai, the Banah and the K’ho. They were quite poor. I went from village to village teaching the people catechism, praying with them and celebrating the Liturgy of the Word and communion.
Considerable ignorance surrounded health matters. Moral criteria were different from what I was used to. There was material poverty that sometimes led to spiritual poverty. They were “like sheep without a shepherd”. There was no one to guide them, encourage them, and accompany them in their own human development which was being threatened by the surrounding dominant Vietnamese culture.
Living with these peoples I soon learned I did not have all the answers. By sharing their lives, their ways and their frugality, I learned much from them.
I witnessed first-hand their strong faith in God and their joyful living of the Christian faith in spite of their material poverty. I took delight in learning about their cultures and trying to speak their languages.
Now I am a student at the Redemptorist seminary in Melbourne. I joined the congregation in Vietnam and studied and worked among the poor there for three years before transferring to the Australian Redemptorists.
Things are different here in Australia; poverty exists, but it is different. What I learned of life from Vietnam’s Montagnards serves me well here in my new country.