12/13/2019 Thailand (International Christian Concern) – From November 20 to November 23, Catholics in Thailand were thrilled to see Pope Francis in their country, as the last pope to visit their land was Pope Saint John Paul II, who visited over four decades ago in 1984.
Among them, there were some that despite risking arrest and deportation by local authorities, wanted to see Pope Francis in person – Vietnamese Catholics refugees who had fled their repressive country where religious freedom is not a given and have been living in hiding in Thailand.
Most of the 1,400 Vietnamese Christians and ethnic minorities who have settled there, live in fear of arrest and long detention in immigration centers since the Thai government has not signed on to UN conventions protecting refugees. And some have waited years to be resettled in a third country as they scrape by on under-the-table jobs for a few dollars a day.
Ko Sa is among one of the Vietnamese Catholic refugees registered to attend the mass by Pope Francis. She told AFP that “It’s difficult to describe the feeling… It is a great honor for us to see him,” said the 34-year-old refugee.
“When I think of how miserable my life is here I just cry,” added Ko Sa, who works as a cleaner for $5 a day.
For being a Catholic and a member of the vulnerable K’Ho ethnic minority, she feared repercussions from authorities in the one-party state where religion is tightly controlled. Yet though she can now freely worship in Thailand, everyday life is a struggle for her.
At least attending the pontiff’s mass was a great honor – a rare bright spot in her “miserable” life in limbo as an asylum seeker in Bangkok.