Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter in Hanoi

We went to Easter Sunday services in Hanoi's St. Joseph Cathedral this morning. There are more than 5.6 million Catholics in Vietnam, almost 7 percent of the population. Catholics' history in Vietnam has sometimes been stormy. 

Vietnam is predominantly Buddhist and Catholicism was (rightly) identified with the French colonizers. The French, and later the South Vietnamese government and Americans supporting the South Vietnamese, funneled economic and military aid to the Catholics. The Diem regime in the South blatantly supported Catholics - promoting Catholic military officers ahead of Buddhists and providing arms to Catholic militias. During the wars, against both the French and the Americans, Catholic militias fought against the Viet Minh and North Vietnamese. 

That was then and this is now. After years of persecution, Catholics (and Cao Dai and other religious minorities) are allowed to practice in relative freedom. The Cathedral was packed this morning and not just with older people but with Vietnamese of all ages. The Cathedral held four services in Vietnamese today (and one in English for the ex-patriot community).

There are more photos of Easter services in my archive and available from ZUMA Press