I still have in my memory the scene when participating in the Junior group attached to Legio Mariae of my home-town catholic parish. What is worth mentioning was that all religious activities back to that time were forbidden by the government and were watched closely. Therefore, when there was a group meeting, we feigned to go around the parish, weeding, watering the trees, then secretly went to the corridor at the back of the parish, where miscellaneous items were stored, quickly lighted the oil lamp, placed the vase of wild flowers quickly picked up in the yard, and placed them in front of the crucifix, the statue of Mother Mary and the Vexillum.
Then we prayed the Rosary, said the prayer of Teressa, and started our meeting… and we had to read stealthily and softly, enough to be able to hear one another for fear that the police would rush in to check. When there was a signal cough, the brother principal promptly blew off the lamp, then each of us two by two dispersed ourselves through the existing pathways, each holding any book, as if we were playing a hide and seek game during the school hours. The image of this episode of my youth was evoked in my mind during the past 5 weeks, the period of start-up training of the International Youth Movement for Human Rights through the “Season of Rice Sowing” program. This was just the starting period of a fifteen-month-training program. Although I do not have the feeling of suspense and anxiety of the old time, however, there is still something stealthy, quietly, counting on the means of internet to exchange and learn from each other.
Everybody from the group, particularly those residing in the country, and even the Training Committee reminded one another about the security and safety. It’s funny when thinking that we have to act stealthily when doing a good thing, while a large variety of bad things are occurring publicly everyday in the country. Indeed any real patriot realizes the difficulty, hardship and interdiction by the police. If the police was aware of such meeting, everybody would be put on the cutting board, and closely visited every day, along with one’s own numerous anger, shackles, solitary confinement, or months spent alone in cell, or simply end up with a paper knife (like Mr Nguyen Huu Tan).
In a totalitarian country, your life is not valued and it seems like it does not belong to you, but to the so called transcendental party, devoutly served by a terrorist force claiming to be people’s servants, bur ready to exploit the remaining of your freedom.
Yes, 5 weeks… not a long period of time but enough time for the Training Committee to pinch the enthusiasm and expand the fiery fire to the wholegroup. For myself I could feel the heat brought by the members of the Movement into my spirit. Here it is no longer a useful playground but hasbecome a spiritual furnace for the boys and girls, who got their passion enlightened but still keep their mind stiff and mature ahead of their young age for the good cause.
The lively discussions, the debates on topics related directly to the destiny of the nation: patriotism, non-violent methods of struggle, reason and affection, propaganda and mass media, real and fake news… and many other subjects have been evoked by techniques of integration, have helped the students increase their capability of analysis, rhetoric, identification of the serious problems which are emerging in great multitude in Vietnam.
Here we can say this is an opening of people intellectual and enthusiasm that Phan Chu Trinh and so many martyrs of the previous generations had earnestly promoted. Although they have passed away, their dreams have transmitted the lessons of intelligent fighting spirit pertaining to a sincere patriotism, and that was a subtle strategy, carefully filtered throughout their life of struggle.
The Movement had indeed a long-term strategy focusing on the learning, the education of patriotists based on the platform of both mind and force. This is similarly to the military work of the old times which required not only the knowledge of the martial arts but also the technique of war, e.g. precis of war strategies by Tran Hung Dao, then art of war by Sun Tze… I suddenly understand that our generation should know how to learn and do self-training carefully in order to understand the ideal we are pursuing, to avoid the fallacious arguments, lies and fools, to distinguish propernews from fake ones, to understand myself and the others, and the reasonable and favourable fighting techniques.
Learning is always the bridge to success. Each student from our group understands that each represents a segment of a long spiritual chain, like the mountain chain of Truong Son that extends itself from North to South of the land of Vietnam, extending at the same time the love for the country that our ancestors had preserved with so much efforts and sacrifices.
Yes, dear friends, our commitment to patriotism has started that way. Simply learn, acquire skills, being imbued with spirit of intellectual opening, to encourage everybody in the group to participate with enthusiasm. This is alsothe aspirational mind of Phan Chu Trinh.
In his essay “Status Quo Problem”, Mr Phan said: “No violence, violence leads to death! Not counting on foreigners, counting on foreigners makes you stupid! The people of our country, those who love freedom, I have a very precious thing to offer to you, this is “just learn”.
Might the enthusiastic flame for the sake of the home country be lighted in the heart of all the people of the land of Vietnam, in order that, wherever there are Vietnamese people, the heroic bloodline backed by the martyr’s soul and the sacred land still fiercely dwells in them forever.
With much hope.
A student of “Rice Sowing Season” training program