With that in mind, I was fascinated to read that just this week, the Czech Republic honored a Vietnamese Buddhist community which had re-settled in their country decades ago. The web site www.buddhistdoor.net reported that the first Buddhist cultural center for the Vietnamese community in the Czech Republic city of Most has been upgraded to provincial status. At a ceremony featuring the director of Ustecky’s integration office, Jan Kubicek, the Vietnamese Buddhist Cultural Center was recognized for its value to the people of the region. Most is the capital of Most District in the Ustecky region, in the northwest of the Czech Republic bordering the German state of Saxony.
Speaking at the ceremony, the head of the pagoda, Venerable Thich Thong Dat, stressed the significance of the recognition, saying it was an honor for Buddhists in the Czech Republic. He further stated that the move demonstrated the interest of the regional authorities in the religious activities of Vietnamese people in the country.
Kubicek observed that the Vietnamese community had been active in preserving Vietnam’s cultural identity and introducing non-Vietnamese to their community. Kubicek said he hoped the center and community would continue to strengthen ties with other religious and civic organizations in the area and help Vietnamese youths understand their traditional culture and language.
The center was inaugurated this year in a ceremony on 5 January. At the time, the chairman of the region’s council for ethnic minorities, Pavel Vodsedalek, presented a certificate recognizing the cultural center, stating that among local ethnic minority groups, the Vietnamese community had carried out many activities to preserve and introduce its diverse culture. During the January ceremony, the Vietnamese ambassador to the Czech Republic, Ho Minh Tuan, thanked the Ustecky authorities for helping the Vietnamese community uphold their traditional culture and integrate into Cezch society.
According to government statistics, the Czech Republic is a largely nonreligious society, with 34.5 per cent stating in a recent survey that they hold no religious beliefs. The nation’s statistics do not break down the largest category, which consists of more than 45 per cent who check the box for religious belief not stated, which would include the country’s Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and so on. The World Buddhist Directory lists 76 Buddhist places in the Czech Republic. Most Buddhists in the country are Vietnamese, with a minority of Buddhists being Czechs who have converted.