Dissident Buddhist Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang speaks out to Buddhists at home and abroad - Thich Thien Hanh ceases hunger strike in Hue


This morning at 8.30 am (Vietnam time), Venerable Thich Huyen Quang, Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) sent a message to Venerable Thich Thien Hanh calling on him to cease the unlimited hunger strike he began on October 19th to protest the government crackdown against the UBCV. The UBCV Patriarch commended the 74-year-old dignitary for his “spirit of fearlessness and self-sacrifice for the protection of the Dharma and the survival of the UBCV”. But, he said, “I ask you to cease your hunger strike and quickly recover your health and strength, for the struggle is long and fraught with danger”. Vietnamese Buddhists must “choose the Path of Life in order to save the living”, he said. “We must sanctify life so that Buddhism may survive”. Thich Thien Hanh ceased his hunger strike at 5.00 pm this evening, and is now resting at the Bao Quoc Pagoda in Hue.
Venerable Thich Huyen Quang repeated this message to Vo Van Ai, Director of the International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) this morning, in one of the rare phone calls established between the Paris-based IBIB and Nguyen Thieu Monastery in Binh Dinh province since the UBCV Patriarch was placed under close Police surveillance on October 9th 2003. During this conversation, Thich Huyen Quang also commented on the crack-down following the UBCV’s Assembly in Binh Dinh on October 1st, and launched a moving address to Buddhists inside and outside Vietnam. This is the first time he has publicly voiced an appeal to the Buddhist community since he was placed under house arrest in 1982. The line was bad, but his voice was firm. IBIB recorded and transcribed the following Message from the Fourth Supreme Patriarch of the UBCV :
“We have endured so many difficulties over the years, as you all know. Difficulties created by the very top levels of the Communist leadership right down to the local officials and grass roots Party cadres. Time has unravelled many of these past difficulties. But when new hardships befall us, we must confront them with courage. We must be free to practice Buddhism, not with the aim of overthrowing anyone’s power, nor disputing anyone’s position. Our aim is to bring the Buddhist philosophy of compassion and forgiveness to help deliver the Vietnamese people and all beings from suffering.
We must not be afraid, we must not give up hope. I believe that the recent UBCV Assemblies (in Binh Dinh and Melbourne, Australia) will bring a new source of inspiration and hope for all UBCV Buddhists, and put an end to the decades of imprisonment and suffering we have endured as a banned organization in Vietnam. I call upon you all to unite and increase your efforts to restore the place of Buddhism as a vibrant force within Vietnamese society today”.