Sunday, June 01, 2008

Thich Huyen Quang seriously ill, hospitalized

Ven. Thich Huyen Quang, the Supreme Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, was admitted to the General Hospital in Quy Nhon on 27th May, reports the International Buddhist Information Bureau, "suffering from breathing problems due to a heart condition. The 89 year old Patriarch is reportedly very weak." IBIB says Thich Quang Do, deputy to Thich Huyen Quang, has finally been allowed to visit him, along with some other monks, after years of being prevented from doing so.

The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam was the major Buddhist organization in the south prior to 1975, and had become known to the west for its involvement in "third force" and peace movement. After the communist victory, the new regime moved quickly to control the UBCV along with other organizations that represented a potential dissident force in the country. After he wrote a letter in March 1977 to then PM Pham Van Dong describing in detail various incidents of anti-Buddhist repression, Thich Huyen Quang was arrested along with seven other top UBCV leaders. They were held in prison until the end of 1978.

He and Thich Quang Do led the protest against the government establishment of a state-sponsored Buddhist Church in 1981, which declared in its founding charter that it was the only legitimate representative of Vietnamese Buddhism within the country and in relations overseas. As a result, the UBCV was essentially banned, while Thich Huyen Quang and Thich Quang Do have spent most of the years since then under some form of house arrest. Despite this, both have managed to issue from time to time courageous and eloquent statements challenging the government's behavior toward religions and human rights in general.

It is sad that a man of Thich Huyen Quang's stature could have been forced into a form of internal exile in central Vietnam, essentially cut off from the outside world, for no crime other than speaking out boldly for religious freedom and human rights. He has truly lived by the Quaker expression, "speak truth to power", and has paid a price for it.

Source: Que Me, May 31, 2008.


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