By Sister Chan Khong Thich Nhat Hanh's two closest friends, the leaders of the Unified Buddhist Church (UBC)—Thich Huyen Quang and Thich Quang Do—were arrested in December. The police ransacked both their temples and took all their religious properties, including the Seal of the Unified Buddhist Church, transmitted to Thich Huyen Quang by the former Patriarch.
Thich Huyen Quang, the Vice President of UBC, is 77. After one week in jail in Quang Ngai City, he is now being held in an old, ruined temple in the Nghia Binh District 360 miles north of Saigon. He has been on a hunger strike for the release of eight monks who were arrested last year and the year before, and two monks (Thich Tue Sy and Thich Tri Sieu) who have been detained since 1984. The names of all of these monks are in the letters that follow.
Thich Quang Do, the Secretary General of the Church, is 68 years old. We do not know where he has been taken. Thousands of you signed letters on behalf of Thich Tue Sy and Thich Tri Sieu when we needed your help in 1988, and we succeeded in getting the government to commute their death sentences. It is certain that our actions can make a difference. Now, we need your help again.
Please photocopy and send the letters that follow—one to Vietnam and one to the White House. Please write the date in the upper left corner of each letter, then sign your name at the end and print or type your name and address below that. If you have access to a fax machine, it would be most effective to fax them to the respective leaders. If you cannot fax them, please mail them. (International air mail postage from the U.S. is still 500 for one-half ounce.) If you prefer to write letters in your own words, please do so, but we know that many of you do not have the time to do that and would find it easier just to sign the enclosed letters. The main point is the urgency of the situation. For the sake of these monks, quick and thoughtful intervention is imperative. If you cannot send all three letters, the one to Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet is the most important.
Thank you very much for doing what you can to help these dear friends.
Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet Chairman, Council of Ministers Hanoi, Socialist Republic of Vietnam Fax:011-844-259-205
Dear Prime Minister,
We would be grateful if you could allow Thich Quang Do, the General Secretary of the Unified Buddhist Church (UBC), to return to his Thanh Minh Temple; and Thich Huyen Quang, the Vice President of UBC, to return to his An Quang Temple in Ho Chi Minh City. We also earnestly wish you to release Thich Tue Sy and Thich Tri Sieu and allow them to return home before Tet, as they have spent almost eleven years in jail.
Could you also please release Doan Viet Hoat, Thich Tri Tuu, Thich Hai Tang, Thich Hai Thinh (arrested in 1993), Thich Khong Tanh, Thich Tri Luc, and Thich Nhat Ban. Venerables Thich Khong Tanh, Thich Tri Luc, and Thich Nhat Ban were arrested in November 1994 for bringing flood victims food in trucks identified as belonging to UBC. This wonderful act of releasing the monks will prove that you are a great leader who honors religious freedom and human rights in your country.
Your openness on the economy and a number of other liberties has inspired and encouraged us to write this letter to you. Please allow UBC of Vietnam, established since 1963, to function normally and with freedom equal to the Buddhist Church of Vietnam established in 1981 with your support. In a free country there are many churches. It proves the broad view, tolerance, and grandeur of a regime. If your garden has only one kind of flower, it will be extremely monotonous and so sad. It is much more colorful and pleasant to have roses (The Buddhist Church of Vietnam), lotuses (The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam), tulips (the Protestant Church), daffodils (Catholic Church), and so forth. Please try to have as many flowers as possible in your national garden.
You will see that it is not difficult to do that, and your country will have more stability, peace, and good friends. We learned that the Unified Buddhist Church united the two major schools of Buddhism in the world: the Mahayana and Theravada traditions; it is not the unification of Buddhists from South, Central, and North. Vietnam like the Buddhist Church of Vietnam.
Thank you for everything you could do to help promote the respect of religious freedom in your country so that every time we think of Vietnam we could see the total beauty of your mountains, rivers, and your people...as well as its leaders.
Yours in peace,
President Bill Clinton The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington, D.C. 20500 Fax (202) 456-2461 or (202) 456-2883
Dear President Clinton,
We appreciate your lifting the embargo on Vietnam. As a result of more normal diplomatic relations, it is now possible for you to urge greater respect for human rights in Vietnam.
Please read the article by Philip Shenon in the January 9, 1995 New York Times on the recent arrests of Buddhist monks in Vietnam.
Thich Huyen Quang—the Vice President of the Unified Buddhist Church (that worked for peace during the Vietnam War), was exiled to a remote temple in ruins in a cold mountainous area 360 miles north of Ho Chi Minh City. Thich Quang Do was imprisoned January 5, 1995, in an unknown jail. We ask that you request the Department of State to work with Vietnamese authorities to encourage them to allow Thich Huyen Quang to return to his An Quang Temple in Ho Chi Minh City, and to allow Thich Quang Do to return to his Thanh Minh Temple in Ho Chi Minh City.
We also ask that you and the Department of State urge the Vietnamese government to release the following imprisoned monks: Thich Tue Sy and Thich Tri Sieu (detained since 1984); Thich Tri Tuu, Thich Hai Tang, Thich Hai Thinh, and Thich Hanh Due (arrested in 1993); and Thich Khong Tanh, Thich Nhat Ban, and Thich Tri Luc (arrested in November 1994, for bringing flood victims food in trucks identified as belonging to UBC).
All of these monks have been detained solely for the nonviolent expression of their beliefs.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Yours in peace,