Pilgrimage to Pilau Bidong
It is thirty years in April since the fall of Saigon. Most of us know the events that followed only too well. For the next almost twenty years, thousands of Vietnamese fled their country in fishing boats to search for the freedom and normal life that was no longer possible in their own land due to a cruel communist tyranny.
While so many Vietnamese people have become happy residents of their new countries, they recall the events that surrounded their hurried departure from their homeland and their long wait in camps and detention centres in South East Asian countries, as they hoped that western nations would soon offer them resettlement.
To commemorate these events and in thanksgiving for the support of countries of second and third settlement, about a hundred Vietnamese people will make a pilgrimage during the last week of March 2005. to two of the countries,- Pulau Bidong in Malaysia and Pulau Galang in Indonesia
Three Sisters of Mercy from Melbourne Congregation who worked for many years in the former camp, will be members of the group, which also includes Catholic priests and Buddhist monks. The sisters concerned are Joan Campbell rsm, Maureen Lohrey rsm and Carole Mc Donald rsm who are all very excited to be part of this memorial trip.
There will be prayer services at the graves of those buried in the camps and some who were buried on the mainland. The group also hopes to meet some of the former local authorities who had worked with them. In gratitude for their hospitality the Vietnamese people will present the Government authorities with a memorial plaque with words of recognition of those years inscribed.
Anyone who has contact with Vietnamese boat people who stayed in either of these countries, could direct them to the site www.bidonggalang.com for further information. There are also many photos of the camps in the site and there are directions about further developments.
Messages to Carole McDonald rsm