I asked the women sitting with her what they felt is the single greatest social challenge facing Vietnam today. Without coaxing and almost in unison the women said ecology. Unless the people attend to ecological needs, they explained, all other social issues will only get worse and the fabric of Vietnamese society will weaken.Studies have indicated, for example, that one third to one half of the Mekong Delta, the nation’s primary food source, is in peril and could be under water in 50 years if expected sea levels continues to rise.That ecology would be viewed by these women as Vietnam’s number one social challenge took me by surprise. But it was followed by another because they were coming to ecological issues through what was for them a relatively new spiritual framework: the presence of God in creation.
I also have at least a simple appreciation for the co-mingling of Buddhism and Catholicism in Vietnam. It is, of course, chiefly a Buddhist culture, though many Vietnamese self-identify as Catholic, and still others (a significant number, from what I've heard) identify themselves as both Buddhist and Catholic. That may seem like a jarringly "hyphenated" identity to very conservative Catholics, for whom Buddhism probably sounds as strange as some just-discovered Martian faith. In truth, however, Buddhism and Catholicism have--at least on a good day--much in common, including the call to compassion and a respect for all of God's creation, both that which is sentient as well as that which is inanimate. (In other words, don't drill, baby, don't drill, at least not in ANWAR.)
God is a transcendent Creator, giving life to all creation. The task is clear. We need to preserve this creation.