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The Politics of the Un-Political: Religious Protest in Contemporary Vietnam

Colloquium with Lan Chu, Associate Professor of Diplomacy and World Affairs, Occidental College

Wednesday, May 09, 2012
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
10383 Bunche Hall (10th floor)
UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

In recent years Vietnam has experienced an increasing number of protests from its relatively small yet active Catholic community, in a manner unseen since communism’s advance to the south in 1954.  Some of these protests have occurred over the seizure of Catholic Church property in the communities of Thai Ha and Con Dau.   Many lay Catholics involved in the protests have claimed that their engagement is spiritually—not politically—motivated.  However, certain Catholic priests have decided to take more prominent political roles by running campaigns in May 2011 for seats in Vietnam’s 13th National Assembly.  These campaigns are in violation of canon law which prohibits them from engaging in partisan politics.  The political dilemma presented by Vietnamese Catholics seems to have turned all that we have come to know about such dissent on its head: the lay Catholics seek to remain non-political in their engagement while some of the Church’s official agents (priests) are seeking to participate in formal political institutions.  While these contradictory approaches reflect the complex nature of religion and politics in Vietnam, I argue that there is more continuity than contradiction; the Catholic Church has a uniform approach to politics, and these recent events can facilitate a working dialogue between Church and state.

Lan Chu is Associate Professor of Diplomacy and World Affairs at Occidental College.  Her research and teaching interests focus on the political role of religious institutions, the political liberalization processes of former and existing communist countries, faith diplomacy, and inter-religious dialogue.  Her work has been published in Politics and Religion, Democratization, Journal of Vietnamese Studies, East European Politics and Societies, and BBC News. She also has a chapter on Vietnamese Church-State relations in Local Organizations and Urban Governance in East and Southeast Asia (Routledge Press, 2009).

Cost : Free and open to the public.


Sponsor(s): Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Center for the Study of Religion

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