A syncretistic folk religion is finding revival and new public recognition in Vietnam, according to an Associated Press report (June 28).
The once banned Caodai religious sect is a hybrid of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Vietnamese spiritism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. The movement, started in the 1920s, has more than 3 million followers despite the Vietnamese government’s religious regulation. In addition to calling on spirits, Caodai believers practice priestly celibacy, vegetarianism and the worship of ancestors.
The religion emphasizes morality and frowns on material luxuries. Its pantheon of saints include modern China’s patriarch Sun Yat-Sen and Vietnam’s first poet-laureate, Nguyen Binh Khiem, and adherents also commune with the spirits of historical figures, including Joan of Arc, Vladimir Lenin and even Charlie Chaplin, writes Dao Thu Hien.
Last month, Caodai followers were helped considerably when their religion received official approval from the government, legitimizing its existence in the eyes of the communist leadership. It’s a considerable change for a religious movement that raised an army to fight against the communists during the Vietnam War.
But today, the government says Caodaism fills a void for many people. “We find the Caodai existence meets a legitimate spiritual demand of the people here,” said Muoi Thuong, a spokesman for the government’s Religious Affairs Committee. “These people are religious followers, but they are also good citizens and patriots.”