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More About Religious Policy in Vietnam

Updated on October 1, 2009

 In an earlier hub -

- I wrote about the current problems for the disciples in Vietnam of the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who some decades ago opposed both the US war in his country, and the politics of the Communist government in Hanoi, which of course made him impopular in both camps (but was quite logical for a consistent believer in non-violence).

Now I have read another article -,8577,0,0,1,0

- about the situation in Vietnam for religions (both Buddhism and Catholicism).

It seems that religious freedom is fluctuating, as often in dictatorships (whether officially left- or rightwing).

And that economical factors play a certain role - trying to join the WTO? More religious freedom. Already a member? No need to keep it.

It's easy to compare the relation between Thich Nhat Han and the Vietnamese government on one hand, and that between the Dalai Lama and Beijing on the other; but there are some important differences.

Unlike the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh does not belong to an ethnic minority of his country. He does not lead a government in exile. As far as I know, he is not envolved in any movement stamped as separatistic.

(To correct a common misunderstanding: The Dalai Lama is not the leader of world Buddhism. He isn't even the leader of Tibetan Buddhism. He is the leader of one of the four sects of Tibetan Buddhism.)

This is also a difference between between the Vietnamese government's conflict with Thich Nhat Hanh on one hand, and with the Catholic church on the other. The supreme leader of the Catholic church is also a chief of state (and besides, Vatican State was created by Mussolini); Thich Nhat Hanh is not. (The Dalai Lama used to be, and may be so again, but that is not in accordance with the original rules for Buddhist monks. To do him justice, he doesn't seem to be very keen to get his political power back...)


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