Scotland's National Catholic magazine

Extraordinary Lives: Quyet Nguyen

Quyet Nguyen is a Vietnamese Catholic who fled his homeland after being harassed by the government.

Upbringing

I was born in the south of Vietnam in a Catholic family. My grandfather was a soldier fighting for South Vietnam. After the American withdrawal, my grandfather became a prisoner of the Communist Party, being sent to work on a coffee farm.

When I was nine, my mother couldn’t afford to bring me up and so I went to live in a parish house with priests with some other boys in a similar position.

We got up at 4am to serve at Mass and then went to school. We would cook with a woman who lived with us. We did everything like a family.

Trouble brewing

After high school, I got into university. I would get together with students and a priest to study the Faith and volunteer for a charity. At that point, we started getting trouble from the government. They thought we were spreading anti-government propaganda.

Between 2008 and 2009, there was a lot of conflict between Catholics and the Vietnamese government. Church land was being taken away. Because we could, we wrote articles calling it wrong and supporting the freedom of the Church in Vietnam.

At that time, a couple of my friends were imprisoned by the government. We tried to help them, but it was very dangerous. They often stopped us, but we’d manage to talk our way out of it.

The future

After university I returned to the parish house and the police still followed me.

Maybe they always thought of me as being born in a traitor’s family, in an anti-government family.

I didn’t see a future. I studied history and education and I wanted to teach, but I wouldn’t be accepted in a public school because I’m Catholic. I’d have to leave my Faith and become a communist. I taught children the Faith at the parish house.

Time to flee

The people in the parish still read my articles. At that time, Chinese companies were contracted by the government to take land for the purposes of manufacturing.

They sent the waste into the sea. The fish died and the people lost their livelihood. When we spoke against it, we became a target again.

Catholics in my hometown were sentenced to 10 years in prison. My friend wrote about a church being taken over by the government and he was imprisoned. The priest in the parish advised me to leave Vietnam or I would I end up in prison.

Human traffickers

The agent in Vietnam who helped me escape was a trafficking agent. At the time we didn’t know. He made a fake passport and took me on a flight to Moscow, Russia. There, another trafficker picked me up.

The agents locked me in flats with about 15 other people. We couldn’t run away because we didn’t know anything about the country. We had to depend on them. From Russia to Poland we had to walk through forests via Latvia.

It took nearly a month. It was so hard, they had weapons to stop us running. We camped in the forest, drank from the stream, ate apples from trees.

They got the money from Vietnam once we arrived in the UK. The parish had to pay approximately £30,000. That’s a lot in Vietnam.

Arriving

I arrived in Leicester. When I got there, I got depression, I was lonely and stressed. Even now, it’s so hard. I was all by myself.

I travelled the streets until I met Vietnamese people I could speak to. I knew there were some Vietnamese Catholics in Scotland, so I worked to get money to get the train here. It’s been five years that Scotland has kept me.

The Scottish government has given me a flat and some money. The Vietnamese community in Scotland helps me. I’ve started to adapt to living here. I always believed in my God who kept me.

The route was so hard, but he kept me well. I pray to Him every day. Living with Faith is so important.

Scotland

I attend Mass every Sunday at St Andrews Cathedral, Glasgow. I’m a familiar face there! Canon Gerard Sharkey has helped me a lot.

There’s a Vietnamese Catholic community here. They help each other.

I’m waiting to see if I can get a visa, I want to work on my English, and find a job. I want to live better every day.

Sign Up to Our Newsletter

Get the latest Scottish Catholic news. Sign up today.