Ho Ca Dau  is preparing to receive Baptism at the Easter vigil this year (Photo supplied)

By UCA News reporter

Mar 1 2024

Ho Ca Dau is taking catechism classes to be baptized into the Catholic Church after having helped persecute Christians for nearly a decade, treating them as enemies of communism.

The 27-year-old from the Bru-Van Kieu ethnic group believes his conversion is akin to that of St Paul, who “persecuted Christians but fell to the ground on the way to Damascus and chose to follow Jesus.”

Dau was born into an atheist family in a village in the central province of Quang Tri. In the village, he treated Christians as a “reactionary force,” fighting against the communist government, he said.

His father, a soldier and Communist Party member, told him that religious forces such as Christianity abuse ethnic villagers and damage the government’s revolutionary causes.

“There is no God in the world and humans can do all things,” Dau recalls his father telling him.

Dau studied at a state-run boarding school where he joined the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, a socio-political organization that educates young people to be loyal communists.

After completing high school in 2015, he volunteered to serve as a militiaman to maintain social order and security in the village.

He tried his best to get rewarded by his superiors by “following, snooping, and eavesdropping on people” who came to the village from other places.

People came to trade in dried fish, sugar, milk, cooking oil, and clothes, besides supplying notebooks to the local people.

“I suspected them of illegally spreading Catholicism and Protestantism. I accused them of endangering social security,” he recalled.

In 2016, Dau got five of them arrested for “keeping crosses and copies of the Bibles in their bags.”

They were detained for a day before being freed.

Dau believed the cross was an “evil” force and actively prevented local Catholics from gathering for prayers.

But today he believes his past was God’s plan to save him and his family and become an example for many.

In 2022, his father was diagnosed with liver cancer, and his family, which consists of his three siblings, was left with nothing after they sold all their cattle to cover his hospital treatment.

However, some Catholics in the area came forward to provide emotional and material support to his father until his death. Some of those volunteers included the five people who were arrested because of Ho’s allegations.

Dau became poorer and miserable when his crops failed. He was left to eke out a living by transporting other people’s goods on his bicycle in Dong Ha.

“One day I fainted because of hunger and was lying on the side of the road. A Catholic passer-by took me to the hospital and covered all my medical treatment costs,” he said.

He was admitted to the hospital for three days due to a vestibular disorder and hypotension.

Thaddeus Vu Duc Vinh, who rescued him from the roadside, said he helped Ho buy a used motorbike and procure a driving license.

Soon Dau started working as a motorbike taxi driver and started earning around 300,000 dong (US$12) per day.

Vinh, a member of a charity group based in Thach Han Parish, also invited Ho to stay in his home.

Dau was “an honest, hard-working man trying to stand on his own two feet at the time,” Vinh told UCA News.

Dau slowly started to join the Catholics for evening prayers and Sunday Mass at the local church.

“As he began mixing with the other Catholics, he became deeply interested in Catholicism,” Vinh said.

Dau said he felt deeply indebted to Catholics for all their love and support. “I wanted to pray to God to bless them,” he added.

His own family and relatives started to avoid him and his conversion made them angry.

One of his uncles mocked him, saying he was following Catholicism to get food from Catholics.

But Dau said Catholics “are good citizens” who share their resources with others. “They do not abuse religion or incite people to oppose the government,” he said.

Dau is now taking a four-month course along with 11 other catechumens, held three days a week in Dong Ha Parish.

He plans to receive baptism at the Easter vigil in March.

Redemptorist Brother Andrew Nguyen Dinh Toai, who teaches them, said Dau takes an active part in the class and seeks to clear his doubts.

“He regularly attends Masses as a way to strengthen his faith,” Toai said, adding that Ho is one of three catechumens who wanted to join Catholicism without any external motivation.

The rest are converting to marry Catholics, he revealed.

The brother said the parish receives six catechumens on average annually.

Vinh will serve as Ho’s godfather to guide him into Catholic practices as the young man turns over a new leaf in life.

“I am happy that I can lead a meaningful life and do something useful for other people as a Catholic,” Dau explained.

His motto to live out the Catholic faith is to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

“Once you feel the divine presence in your heart, you will fear nothing in the world,” Dau says. – UCA News