Today in Catholic History – Buddhist protest against South Vietnamese Government

On 30 May 1963, more than 500 Buddhist monks protested in front of the National Assembly in Saigon against the policy of the South Vietnamese government which promoted Catholicism but restricted Buddhism. While there had been a ban on public assembly, the monks evaded this ban by arriving at the National Assembly in buses with the blinds pulled down. The protest consisted of sitting for four hours while holding banners critical of the government.

While South Vietnam was composed 70 to 90 percent of Buddhists, the South Vietnamese government had enacted a very pro-Catholic policy. Catholics were favored for government positions, weapons were given only to Catholics, the Catholic Church was the largest landowner in the country, in 1959 Vietnam was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and the Vatican flag was regularly flown at major public events in South Vietnam – however Buddhist flags were prohibited.

Opposition to the pro-Catholic policy and the restrictions on Buddhism motivated many protests which would reflect both political and religious problems in South Vietnam. The seriousness of these problems was graphically exemplified on 11 June 1963 when Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức immolated himself in front of a large crowd in South Vietnam in protest. Eventually, Buddhist opposition would contribute to the eventual coup against and assassination of South Vietnamese president President Ngô Đình Diệm.

The Buddhist Crisis

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