THICH QUANG DO : 1928 - 2020.

Thich Quang Do, the patriarch of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and a defiant champion of religious freedom, democracy and human rights in his country died recently. He was 91.

His death was confirmed by the Paris based International Buddhist Information Bureau, an arm of the church. There was no information on where he had died.

A spokeswoman for the organization said that the Vietnamese authorities had held Thich Quang Do in communicado st the Hieu Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City and that it had been impossible for members of his organization to make contact with him for many years, she added.

Thich Quang Do had for decades repeatedly challenged, and angered, the Communist government on issues of religious and political freedom and and had effectively been under house arrest since 2003.

He had spent the last 30 years or so in and out of prison, under house arrest or forced into internal exile for refusing to submit the United Church to government control.

He issued a stream of public statements over the years, putting him in the forefront of religious activism in Vietnam, which permits only a government sanctioned Buddhist Organization.

The United Church, founded as an umbrella-organization for various Buddhist sects in 1964, was banned.

His themes were as much secular as religious. echoing some of the main concerns of political dissent in Vietnam.

One such statement, delivered in a video message to the United Nations in 2005, amounted to political manifesto:

''Without democracy and pluralism we cannot combat poverty and injustice, nor bring true development to our people,'' the statement said
''Without pluralism and democracy we cannot guarantee human rights. for human rights cannot be protected without the safeguards of democratic institutions and the rule of law.''

In 2001, Thich Quang Do published : ''Appeal for Democracy in Vietnam,'' an eight-point declaration calling for a multiparty system, free elections, independent trade unions and the abolition of all  ''degrading forms of imported culture and ideologies that pervert Vietnamese spiritual and moral values.''

The World Students Society thanks author, Seth Mydans.


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