During the Vietnam Era, a majority of people in Vietnam were Buddhist – about 70-90% of the population. However, power was held by the Catholics, because the president happened to be in the Catholic minority. He implemented policies that favored Catholics and he persecuted Buddhists. Buddhists were being seriously oppressed, and many Buddhist monks and nuns were being detained by the South Vietnamese Catholic regime. This detainment was called the “Buddhist Crisis,” and many Buddhists protested. In May of 1963, although the Catholic regime frequently flew the Vatican flag, the Buddhists were no longer allowed to fly the Buddhist flag. A South Vietnamese group of soldiers opened fire on a group of Buddhists who were carrying the Buddhist flag. There was no longer religious equality in Vietnam. Many Buddhist protests followed this act of violence against Buddhists, especially in Saigon. On June 10, 1963, it was made known that something important was to come the next day. On June 11, 1963, in the presence of a few reporters who listened to the notice given the day before, there was a Buddhist protest in Saigon. The Buddhists were demanding religious equality and were demanding to have the same rights as the Catholics. One particular Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, burned himself alive in protest. This self-immolation was him committing suicide and sacrificing himself in the name of his Buddhist beliefs. It was important because knowledge of this act, particularly in the press, spread rapidly. With it also spread emotion. Photos of the self-immolation were front page of newspapers worldwide. This act of suicide by Duc caused President Kennedy to review his Vietnam policy and send more troops.
|A colored photo of Thich Quang Duc during his self-immolation|