07/11/2008, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Thousands of faithful at the funeral of Thich Huyen Quang

by Nguyen Hung
The government of Hanoi tried to boycott the ceremony in every way possible. He had spent 30 years in prison or under isolation or house arrest, becoming a champion of religious freedom and of human rights, respected by dissidents and activists. The eulogy by his successor, Thich Quang Do.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews/Ibib) - At least 6,000 Buddhist monks and faithful took part this morning in the funeral of patriarch Thich Huyen Quang, head of the Unified Buddhist Church (UBC), outlawed by the Vietnamese government.

The solemn funeral, which lasted for two hours, took place in the Nguyen Thieu monastery in Bunh Dinh, in the central part of the country. Thich Huyen Quang died last July 6, after spending more than 30 years in prison or under isolation or house arrest for constantly refusing to submit the UBC to the control of the Vietnamese communist party.

The government of Hanoi did everything possible to boycott the funeral: it denounced its supposedly political ends; in blocked the movement of Buddhist communities in the country; it even tried to stop various human rights activists from attending the funeral. The Buddhist patriarch was very well known and respected for his efforts in favour of religious freedom and human rights.

Although it was conducted under police surveillance - which even included the jamming of cell phone signals - the funeral was presided over by Thich Quang Do, recognised by many as the successor of the deceased patriarch.

In the eulogy, Thich Quang Do said: "Over the past 30 years, from 1975 until today, while religious and political repression raged in Vietnam, you were like a great tree that brought us shade and shelter. You were the helmsman whose firm hand safely guided the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam through persecution and oppression. You sacrificed your own freedom in order to save our people and our faith. In return, you reaped nothing but hardships, humiliation and detention, to the point that you exclaimed: 'I am a man without a home, I will die without a grave, I walk without a path and I am a prisoner without a crime!' . . . We will not cease until we have fulfilled your dream to see the UBCV regain its legal status and win back the freedom of religious activities stolen from us by the communist regime in 1975".

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