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Over sixty religious figures, Nobel Peace Prize laureates, legislators and civil society leaders call on Vietnam to cease religious repression and release Thich Quang Do on UN Vesak Day

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PARIS, 7 May 2014 (Vietnam Committee) – As Vietnam hosts celebrations of the United Nations Day of the Vesak (Birth, Enlightenment and Passing away of the Buddha) at the Bai Dinh Temple in Ninh Binh from 7-11 May, sixty one prominent international personalities have launched a joint appeal to the Vietnamese leadership to cease repression against the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and release its Supreme Patriarch Thich Quang Do.

The signatories include four women Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Mairead Maguire, Shirin Ebadi, Rigoberta Menchu Tum and Tawakkol Karman, Roman Catholic Bishop Vaclav Maly of Prague, US Congress members Frank Wolf, Chris Smith, Loretta Sanchez and Zoe Lofgren, former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell, Vice-President of the European Parliament Edward McMillan-Scott and prominent MEPs from the UK, Italy, Portugal, Spain and France, Lord David Alton and Lord Eric Avebury (UK House of Lords), Emma Bonino, former Foreign Minister (Italy), David Kilgour, former Minister (Canada), laureates of the Norwegian Rafto Prize from Estonia, Hungary, South Africa, Mexico, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Azerbaijan, Nigeria and Bahrain, as well as civil society leaders from the USA, Europe, Burma, Mongolia, Taiwan, Tibet and Japan.

Nobel Peace Prize laureates Tawakkol Karman, Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu Tum and Shirin Ebadi  
Nobel Peace Prize laureates Tawakkol Karman, Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu Tum and Shirin Ebadi
 

In their joint letter to Vietnamese government and Communist Party, the 61 international personalities expressed concern at the stark contrast between the grandiose celebration of Buddhism’s most sacred festival and the renewed intensity of State repression against Buddhists in Vietnam. “We are deeply disturbed by recent reports of grave repression against Buddhism, the very faith you claim to celebrate”, they wrote, noting that “UBCV monks, nuns and lay-followers all over the country are routinely harassed, and Security Police are preventing Vesak celebrations in UBCV temples in Danang, Hue and elsewhere”. Only the State-sponsored Vietnam Buddhist Sangha is involved in the ceremonies, whereas UBCV leaders remain “prisoners in their own pagodas”.

They urged Vietnam to celebrate Vesak more meaningfully by releasing Supreme Patriarch Thich Quang Do, 86, who has spent the past three decades in detention, re-establishing the legitimate status of the banned UBCV and ceasing all repression against the UBCV. (Full text below).

Joint Letter to the Vietnamese Government and Communist Party
on the occasion of UN Vesak Day
H.E. Truong Tan Sang, President, Socialist Republic of Vietnam
H.E. Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister
H.E. Nguyen Phu Trong, Secretary General, Communist Party of Vietnam
H.E. Nguyen Sinh Hung, President of the National Assembly
Paris, 5 May 2014

Excellencies,

From 7-11 May 2014, your government will host the 2014 United Nations’ Day of the Vesak at the Bai Dinh Temple in Ninh Binh province. This sacred festival, which commemorates the Buddha’s Birth, Enlightenment and Passing Away, is a world-recognized religious and cultural event. It should be a joyful occasion, a day to remember Buddha’s message of tolerance and peace, and to inspire all people, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, to work together towards mutual understanding and harmonious coexistence in our world.

However, we are deeply disturbed by recent reports of grave repression against Buddhism, the very faith you claim to celebrate. Only the State-sponsored Vietnam Buddhist Sangha, controlled by the Communist Party’s Fatherland Front, is involved in these celebrations, whilst the independent, historical Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) remains banned and its leaders are prisoners in their own pagodas.

Today, the UBCV’s Supreme Patriarch Thich Quang Do, aged 86, a renowned scholar and 2014 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, is under house arrest at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City. He has spent more than three decades in detention for his peaceful advocacy of religious freedom and human rights. UBCV monks, nuns and lay-followers in twenty provincial sections all over the country are routinely harassed, and Security Police are preventing Vesak celebrations in UBCV temples in Danang, Hue and elsewhere. In the light of these grave abuses against Buddhists, as well as Catholics, Protestants, Hoa Hao, Cao Dai and other religious communities, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended in its 2014 report that Vietnam be re-designated as a “Country of Particular Concern”.

We appreciate the progress Vietnam has made in the economic domain, but we believe that progress is only sustainable if it is built upon tolerance and respect. Vietnam is a member of the UN Human Rights Council and a signatory to key UN human rights treaties. As such, your government has a binding obligation to uphold human rights, including the universal and inalienable right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.

We, the undersigned, call upon you to mark this 2014 UN Day of the Vesak by ceasing all repression against the UBCV, releasing Supreme Patriarch Thich Quang Do and restoring the UBCV’s legitimate status. By this gesture, you will uphold the noble aims enshrined in the UN Vesak Day Charter, and honour the 2,000 year heritage of Buddhism in Vietnam.

Sincerely,

Mairead Corrigan Maguire,
Nobel Peace Prize laureate, (Northern Ireland)

Shirin Ebadi,
Nobel Peace Prize laureate (Iran)

Rigoberta Menchu Tum,
Nobel Peace Prize laureate (Guatemala)

Tawakkol Karman,
Nobel Peace Prize laureate (Yemen)

Bishop Vaclav Maly,
Auxiliary Bishop of Prague, President of the Justice and Peace Commission
of the Czech Bishops Conference

Congressman Frank R. Wolf,
Co-Chair, Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights, USA

Congressman Christopher H. Smith,
Chairman, House International Relations Africa, Global Human Rights
and International Operations Subcommittee, USA

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez,
Co-Chair, Congressional Caucus on Vietnam, USA

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren,
Co-Chair, Congressional Caucus on Vietnam, USA

Lord David Alton,
House of Lords, UK

Lord Eric Avebury,
House of Lords, UK

The Hon. Kim Campbell,
former Canadian Prime Minister,
Chair of the Steering Committee of the World Movement for Democracy

Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett,
President, Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, USA

Emma Bonino,
Former Foreign Minister, Italy

Hon. David Kilgour,
former Canadian minister for Asia-Pacific, Canada

Edward McMillan-Scott,
Vice-President of the European Parliament, UK

Baroness Sarah Ludford,
Member of the European Parliament, UK

Charles Tannock,
Member of the European Parliament, UK

Niccolo Rinaldi,
Member of the European Parliament, Italy

Sofia Alfano,
Member of the European Parliament, Italy

Ramon Tremosa I Balcells,
Member of the European Parliament, Spain

Corinne Lepage,
Member of the European Parliament, France

Ana Gomes,
Member of the European Parliament, Portugal

André Gattolin,
Senator, France

Noël Mamère,
Member of the National Assembly, Mayor of Bègles, France

Bob LaGamma,
President, Council for a Community of Democracies, USA

Nina Shea,
Director, Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom,
Former Commissioner, US Commission on International Religious Freedom, USA

Trivimi Velliste,
Member of Estonian Parliament, Rafto Prize Laureate 1988

Peter Molnar,
Senior Research Fellow, Hungary, Rafto Laureate 1989

Paulos Tesfagiorgis,
Eritrean Human Rights Activist, South Africa, Rafto Laureate 2003

Rev. Bulambo Lembelembe Josué,
Vice President of the Protestant Council of Churches,
Rafto Laureate, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Malahat Nasibova,
Journalist, Rafto Laureate 2009, Azerbaijan

Fr. José Raul Vera Lopéz,
Bishop of Saltillo, Mexico, Rafto Laureate 2010

Nnimmo Bassey,
Poet, environmental and human rights activist, Rafto Laureate 2012, Nigeria

Maryam Al-Khawaja,
Acting President Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Rafto Laureate 2013, Bahrain

Judge Essa Moosa,
Judge of the High Court of South Africa,
Chairperson of the Kurdish Human Rights Action Group

Dr. Mervyn Thomas,
Chief Executive, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, UK

Therese Jebsen,
Executive Director, Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, Norway

Arne Liljedahl Lynngård,
Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, Norway

Dr. Michael Kau,
Taiwan Foundation for Democracy

Vo Van Ai,
President, Vietnam Committee on Human Rights
Quê Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam

Zanaa Jurmed,
Citizens Alliance Center, Mongolia

Dieudonné Zognong,
Humanus Foundation, Cameroon

Matteo Meccacci,
President, International Campaign for Tibet, former MP, Italy

Debbie Stothard,
Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma

Reiko Suzuki,
Catuddisa Sangha, Japan

Vincenzo Olita,
Director, Cultural Association Società Libera, Italy

Marco Pannella,
Leader of the Nonviolent Radical Party transnational and transparty, former MEP and MP, Italy

Maurizio Turco,
Treasurer of the NRPtt, former MEP and MP, Italy

Marco Perduca,
Vice President of the Senate of the NRPtt, former Senator, Italy

Filomena Gallo,
Luca Coscioni Association for Freedom of Scientific Research, Italy

Marco Cappato,
former MEP, Italy

Sergio D’Elia,
Secretary, Hands Off Cain, former MP, Italy

Elisabetta Zamparutti,
Hand Off Cain, former MP, Italy

Rita Bernardini,
Secretary, Radicali Italiani, former MP, Italy

Matteo Angioli,
Member of the General Council of the NRPtt, Italy

Kariane Westrheim,
Chair of EU Turkey Civic Commission

Olivier Dupuis,
Journalist, former MEP, Belgium

Vanida Thephsouvanh,
President, Lao Movement for Human Rights

Jackie Campbell,
Human Rights Activist, Saltillo, Mexico

Gian Luca Terragna,
Architect, Italy

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