Monday, September 28, 2009

Help Bat Nha Monastery!!!

Hi everyone. I've been getting a lot of emails and Facebook notes about the situation at Bat Nha monastery in Vietnam. Bat Nha was established by followers of Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Vietnamese government recently demanded the monks and nuns living there leave the monastery. According to published reports, when the monks and nuns peacefully refused to leave, they were repeatedly harassed and attacked. Here's a quote from a recent press release: "Excessive violence was used against unarmed, non-resisting, peaceable monks and nuns, in flagrant breach of all internationally-recognized principles of human rights."

Yesterday, a mob descended on the monastery and forcibly evicted over 130 monks, later threatening over 230 nuns and aspirants who were forced to abandon the monastery. Here's the press release

"Yesterday morning, a 150-strong mob descended on Prajna Monastery, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam. The crowd violently evicted over 130 monks, followers of Venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Plain-clothes police were known to be amongst the mob; uniformed police blocked all roads of access. Government officials refused to intervene, claiming that nothing was happening at the monastery site.

The crowd, armed with sticks and hammers, smashed doors and windows. The monks, some less than 18 years old, began sitting meditation and chanting in peaceful resistance. They were assaulted, removed by force and dragged out of their residence into the torrential rain. They were violently bundled into trucks and taxis, driven off and later dumped by the roadside. Some were marched up to 15 kilometers away from the monastery, being subjected to kicks and blows if they fell. The two most senior monks were beaten and arrested without charge. At this time, it is unknown where one, Brother Phap Hoi, is being held.

After they had successfully attacked the monks, the mob set upon the two nuns’ quarters. Doors were smashed down and all 230 nuns and aspirants driven into one building. There they were held overnight, awaiting threatened violence the next day. Left with no alternative, the nuns and aspirants, the majority of whom are young girls and women under 25 years old, abandoned their home for an uncertain future."
While the monastery has been destroyed, there are a number of ways you can help call attention to this horrifying violation of international human rights laws. Some senior monks are still unaccounted for, and it's important that the Vietnamese government feels pressure from the international community to release them, and to treat them humanely while they're under custody.

• Consider contacting news organizations asking them to cover the events at Bat Nha. Coverage in the West is limited, especially TV coverage. Any attention to this matter helps.
• Contact your representatives in Congress and ask them to pay attention to the events, and to hold the Vietnamese government accountable. You can contact your representatives by clicking here and your senators by clicking here.
• Write to the President of Vietnam asking him to allow the monks to continue their practice peacefully, and asking him to release the monks in custody.
• Contact Secretary of State Hillary Clinton registering your concern on the matter. You can contact her by clicking here.
• Contact the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
• Inform human rights groups about the situation and ask them to take action. Here are a few:
Human Rights Watch
Amnesty International
Reporters Without Borders
You can find the latest news at

To get a sense of what Bat Nha is like, please take a look at this video, which shows the daily practice at the monastery, and includes clips of the monks and nuns' nonviolent response after the initial attacks.

I am full of admiration for these monastics who responded to the attacks with nonviolence. Brother Trung Hai, who is a Dharma teacher at the monastery but was in France at the time of the attack, said this:
"The Vietnamese government and the Religious Committee and the National Buddhist Church have won. Their victory is that Bat Nha is completely destroyed. Everything is smashed. All the monks and nuns have been evicted from the monastery and the buildings have been stripped bare.

Our monastics brothers and sisters have done their part, that is they have responded faithfully to every challenge with non-violence, compassion and forgiveness. And yes, they have won.

Now we rest on the conscience of the government and of the people, inside and outside of Vietnam.

We do not blame anyone. We have no anger toward anyone. We know that our enemies are not people; they are greed, hatred and ignorance."


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