U.N. Buddhist Event in Vietnam Remembers Disaster Victims

May 14, 2008

Author: Grant McCool

Source: Reuters


Victims of China's earthquake and Myanmar's cyclone were remembered on Wednesday when Buddhists opened a rare international religious event in Vietnam, whose critics accuse the government of abusing freedom of worship.

Hundreds of monks in yellow, maroon and saffron robes mixed with government officials and diplomats in suits in a Hanoi convention centre for the week-long U.N. Vesak Day, an annual celebration of Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death.

"In the shadow of these enormous tragedies, the Buddha's message of peace, compassion and love for all living beings brings added urgency," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message read to the conference, mentioning the devastation of Cyclone Nargis and the earthquake in southwestern China.

The event held since 1999 has drawn more than 1,000 delegates to Hanoi, but Buddhists opposed to state-sanctioned religion in Vietnam asked the U.N. head to call for the release of two prominent monks living under restrictions in their pagodas.