WHO KEEPS WAR GOING?
NOT only is the war in Vietnam destroying thousands of innocent human lives, it is also destroying human values. This is the Opinion of 42-year-old South Vietnamese Buddhist, Thich Nhat Hanh, who told Saturday's annual meeting of Christian C.N.D. in London that the war must be stopped and stopped quickly. He said prostitution, corruption. greed and the struggle "just to stay alive" are debasing his people. A director of the Social Studies School of Saigon University, he said he had talked to the simple peasants in the villages near Da Nang about the war and had asked which they prefer: General Ky's Government or the National Liberation Front? Their usual reply was "neither". All they wanted was peace.
Need for peace Need for peace Thich Nhat Hanh said he had come to London not as a politician, not as a Buddhist, but as a Vietnamese. In Vietnam he was a very close friend of the Christians. It was he said, a Catholic priest who in fact first encouraged him to publish a selection of "Peace" poems.
"But there is no peace in my country today," he said. "The sound of aeroplanes has taken over from the sound of Buddhists in prayer."
He recounted how he had crouched in fear in a Vietnamese village during an American bombing raid. "I know from personal experience that not one Vietcong was
s killed in that raid. but there were many villagers killed
Thick Mini tiam, or injured. "The raid I sat through is typical of the war. It is practically impossible for the Americans to destroy the VC without destroying innocent peasants in the villages.
"These peasants don't want war. To them talk of freedom, and democracy is meaningless. These things are only luxuries when you're dead.
"The peasants who represent about 90 per cent of the population have little or no say in keeping the war going. It is the merchants and taxi-drivers, of Saigon who clamour for war." Of corruption. Thich Nhat Hanh said cans of cooking oil labelled "donated by the people of the United States of America to the People of Vietnam" on opening are found to contain only water. Someone has stolen the contents.
Shame shared Shame shared In this atmosphere of war and corruption there is no place for talk of spiritual values, This destruction of human values—the break-down of the country's proud culture and civilisation, is a shame.
"But the Vietnamese people don't feel the shame is all theirs," he said. "They feel they are part of the human family and that this shame is shared.
"My presence here proves that we Vietnamese still have faith in this human family. We still rely on you people in Britain to understand our sufferings and to find ways of stopping the tragedy in Vietnam." The Buddhist said the cry for peace from the Vietnamese people themselves is not a loud one, because it is suppressed. (He quoted instances of people involved in peace marches being thrown into prison.)
He said he was not a politician trying to defend the position of any political party. He was a Vietnamese speaking to Christians, with a message that was purely humanitarian.
Be outspoken Be outspoken Fr. Simon Blake, OP., replying to Thich Nhat Hanh, said Catholics were not blameless in the present situation. "We in Britain often feel crushed by the magnitude of the situation. But I realise as Christians we have done little.
"I think we must be more politically courageous. We must bring pressure not only on our political leaders, but on our religious leaders too—who frequently are far too prudent— to take the initiative in this matter. "We often hear criticism of the religious in Germany for not having spoken out against the persecution of the Jews. But at least they had the excuse that their lives were endangered.
"Today, apart from us who, perhaps, have some ecclesiastical ambitions, we're perfectly safe. I would like Thich Nhat Hahn to take back to his people the knowledge that we are deeply anxious and concerned with their suffering."