Archive for Religion

More Dissident Imprisonment in Vietnam

Posted in Democracy Activists, Politics, Society with tags , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2011 by Ian Pham

“One wonders what exactly the government of Vietnam is so afraid of that an elderly old man like Nguyen Van Lia, who has dedicated his life to religion, should frighten them so much that they feel the need to lock him away in prison.”

Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch, Asia Division

The waves of crackdowns and arrests never end in the SRV (Socialist Republic of Vietnam).  This time, the “lucky” recipients of the brutal regime are Tran Haoi An and Nguyen Van Lia.  The duo have been detained and charged with “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state,” which is just as preposterous as it sounds.  What are these “democratic” freedoms that the government speaks of?  It is ridiculous that the VCP would even use that word as part of a charge against the people.  If their were democratic freedoms, this case wouldn’t even be happening.

Tran Haoi An and Nguyen Van Lia are members of the Hoa Hao Buddhist sect, and, like the Christians, are feared by the Vietnamese government for their religious affiliations.  Tran and Nguyen were captured in April with books, CDs, DVDs, and documents that were said to point out the abuses of the Communist government and pressing for religious freedom.  The recent trial has sentenced the elderly Nguyen Van Lia, who is 71 years old, to five years in jail.  Tran Hoai An’s sentence is lesser with three years in prison.

Human Rights Watch has demanded the immediate release of the Buddhist activists, most likely to further non-compliance by the Vietnamese government.  As always, there is widespread criticism of the Communist Party’s poor treatment of political dissidents.  Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch brings into question why the Vietnamese government is so afraid of an elderly old man like Nguyen Van Lia, and would go as far as sentencing him to five years in prison.  It is sad and pathetic, but then again, it is the Communist Party, not surprised.

Coverage provided by BBC and The Associated Press.

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Prayers in the Cities: Hanoi and Saigon

Posted in Politics, Society with tags , , , , , on October 2, 2011 by Ian Pham

According to Spero News (September 26, 2011), over 2,000 Christian Redemptorists gathered in the cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City this week to pray for the safety and well-being of Vietnam’s political prisoners.  Religious freedom, peace for the country, and the release of the detainees were all among the wishes of the people.  It is not said whether the gathering was broken up by authorities or not, one could probably perceive this as a good sign.

It would be naive of me to say that this event could spark a revolution in Vietnam, for this event is much too small for that.  However, I will take the event for what it is, a positive act by the people.  Besides the anti-China protests, now stifled by the Communist government, any forms of protests and gatherings in Vietnam rarely last.  This religious gathering by Vietnamese Christians is probably no exception.  Though there is no coverage of violent repression by security forces, it is almost definite that the police dispersed or even detained some individuals.

Any talks of freedom in Vietnam are swiftly and forcefully crushed by the Vietnamese police, this time is no different.  It is difficult for the Communists to lay charges to peaceful worshippers, but they always find a way around it.  In the same Spero News article, interviews of everyday individuals in Vietnam bring to light some disturbing tactics used by the Party. Instead of outright detention of peoples of interest, the Communist Party arrests them secretly, in order to not draw attention to themselves. Religious figures are common victims of these kidnappings, for they hold influence among the population.  Therefore, public detainments of these individuals would spark anger among the population, causing difficulties for the Communists.

The prayers in the cities of Vietnam may not be a very strong political statement, the event itself is quite minor.  However, it takes quite a bit of courage to go out and worship in a society where religion is a major target of the government.  Not only that, but the prayers are for the freedom of religion and just treatment of detained religious leaders.  This probably will not lead to a major movement that will overthrow the Communist Party of Vietnam, but it is still a noteworthy move in this struggle for freedom.

Buddhism: The Religion That Saved Đại Việt

Posted in Dynastic History with tags , , , , , on November 30, 2010 by Ian Pham

First off, let me clarify that I am not about do discredit any other religion in favor of Buddhism.  In modern Vietnam, Christianity, as well as Buddhism, have been major contributors to the development of Vietnamese society.  However, I am looking back, very far back, to the times of antiquity to show Buddhism’s major contribution to the strength and protection of Đại Việt.

For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to the strand of Buddhism practiced in Vietnam as Vietnamese Buddhism.  There are numerous teachings in the Buddhist religion that I won’t be covering here.  For now, I will be pointing out the three most powerful lessons that every leader of antiquity have followed at some point in their lives.  These three great teachings talk of compassion (bi), intelligence (trí), and courage (dũng).

These three  great teachings paved the way for the rise of the Đại Việt nation.  The Lý Dynasty, the Trần Dyansty, and the Lê Dynasty were Buddhist dynasties (though the Lê to a lesser extent).  Great emperors like Lý Thái Tổ, Trần Nhân Tông, Lê Lợi, just to name a few, were Buddhists.  Heroes of Vietnam, like Trần Hưng Đạo, Lý Thường Kiệt, and Nguyễn Trãi, were all well versed in the teachings of Buddha.

These heroes all learned from these teachings of bi, trí, and dũng (compassion, intelligence, and courage) to protect the country.  In times of peace, they were benevolent, compassionate, and kind.  In times of war, they fought fearlessly, showing no mercy to the ones who dared to invade the land.  Thanks to the teachings of Buddha, the nation of Đại Việt prevailed in the face of adversity and prospered in times of peace.