The Ho Chi Minh City chapter of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha (VBS) on May 23 held a commemoration service for Bodhisattva Thich Quang Duc, who set himself on fire 50 years ago to protest against the repression of Buddhists by the American-supported Saigon Government.

Addressing the event, Most Venerable Thich Tri Quang, Vice Chairman of the VBS Executive Board said Thich Quang Duc’s self-immolation sparked a sense of national solidarity among Buddhist sects across the country and brought the fight for religious equality and freedom to a success in 1963, laying a foundation for the unification of Vietnamese Buddhism, now known as the VBS.

Quang, who is also head of the municipal Buddhist Sangha Executive Board, said Thich Quang Duc’s actions touched the hearts of peace, freedom and independence lovers around the world.

Most Venerable Thich Quang Duc was born as Lam Van Tuat in Van Khanh commune, Van Ninh district, the central province of Khanh Hoa in 1897.

He actively fought for religious freedom and equality in the southern region in 1963 when it was governed by the US-backed Saigon administration.

On June 11, 1963, when a procession of over 800 Buddhist monks, nuns and followers arrived at the intersection of Phan Dinh Phung boulevard (now Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street) and Le Van Duyet Street (now Cach Mang Thang Tam Street), Thich Quang Duc soaked himself in petrol, struck a match and set himself on fire.

He was honoured as a Bodhisattva in 1964 after the unified VBS came into being.

The same day, leaders of southern Binh Duong province visited and presented gifts to dignitaries in Chau Thoi and Hoi Khanh pagodas and Ngoc Binh Buddhist temple on the occasion of Buddha’s 2,557 th birthday.

This year, Hoi Khanh pagoda handed over 200 gifts to the poor. Representatives of local pagodas also offered gifts worth over 500 million VND (23,000 USD) to underprivileged people.

On May 24, the provincial Buddhist Cultural Centre will come alive with over 5,000 flower lanterns, and hundreds of banners, flags and Buddha images at a massive festival.

A procession of flower floats will parade down thoroughfares from Hoi Khanh to Hoi An pagoda. Music performances will also get underway.

On the occasion, leaders of southern Bac Lieu, Dong Thap and Binh Thuan provinces visited and presented gifts to dignitaries in local pagodas.-VNA