PARIS, 27.2.2015 (IBIB) – The International Buddhist Information Bureau is deeply grieved to announce that Most Venerable Thich Nhu Dat, Deputy leader of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) and Head of the UBCV’s Executive Institute Viện Hóa Đạo, passed away at Long Quang Pagoda in Hue on Thursday 26 February 2015. He suffered from stomach cancer and had been seriously ill over the past three months. Thich Nhu Dat was 86 years old.
Most Venerable Thich Nhu Dat
Appointed UBCV Deputy leader in December 2013, just over one year ago, Thich Nhu Dat was a much-loved and respected spiritual figure, revered by Buddhists both in the UBCV and State-sponsored organizations, especially in Hue and central Vietnam. The Long Quang Pagoda on the banks of the Perfume River, where he was Superior monk, was the UBCV Secretariat, and an active centre of spiritual, educational and humanitarian activities, providing particular support for the UBCV Buddhist Youth Movement (Gia Đình Phật tử Việt Nam).
Although he was not well known internationally, Thich Nhu Dat was one of the most stalwart supporters of the movement for religious freedom and human rights led by UBCV leader Thich Quang Do. Born in Binh Dinh in 1929, a monk since his early age and an adept of martial arts, he was well known for his simplicity and straightforward speaking, and did not hesitate to confront the authorities on issues of religious autonomy and state persecution. As such, he was a target of unabated government repression. In January 2014, when he organized the celebration of Buddhist Memorial Day, his first event as UBCV Deputy leader, over 100 Security Police surrounded the Long Quang Pagoda, blocked all road access and intercepted UBCV Buddhists at the local airport and train station. Over 100 members of the UBCV Buddhist Youth Movement were placed under house arrest.
Monks carry Thich Nhu Dat’s coffin at the funeral service at Long Quang Pagoda, Hue, on 26.2.2015
In July 2014, Thich Nhu Dat attended the meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, and Thich Quang Do at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) to brief the UN expert on government restrictions on the UBCV. Shortly before his death, from his hospital bed in Saigon, he asked the International Buddhist Information Bureau to record an audio message addressed to Vietnamese Buddhists overseas. He urged them to develop Buddhist virtues of compassion, tolerance and wisdom, and support Thich Quang Do’s efforts for religious freedom and human rights in Vietnam.
The UBCV in Hue reports that the funeral ceremony of Thich Nhu Dat at the Long Quang Pagoda in Hue at 8.00am today was attended by 200 monks and nuns and almost 1,000 Buddhists, despite strong Police presence. A number of UBCV dignitaries from the provinces were intercepted at airports and banned from travelling. UBCV Supreme Patriarch Thich Quang Do was denied the right to travel to Hue. He tried to book a flight, but was refused because he has no identity card. Thich Quang Do has been denied citizenship rights since he was sent into internal exile in Vu Doai, northern Vietnam in 1982 and subsequently placed under house arrest in Saigon.
Thich Nhu Dat’s coffin will remain at the Long Quang Pagoda to enable Buddhists to pay their last respects. The burial ceremony will take place on 3 March 2015.