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Lions Roar : May 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2012 41 There, over cups of oolong tea, she told him that she’d met privately with various Buddhist leaders in Vietnam and that they’d unanimously agreed. Nhat Hanh should not return; his skill in communicating with the West was too valuable. Nhat Hanh decided that to more effectively spread the word about what was going on in Vietnam, he needed an assistant. Would Chan Khong be willing to take on that role? At first, she said no—she had responsibilities in Vietnam. But after reflecting further, she decided Nhat Hanh was right. She would be able to effect more change in her homeland while living abroad. In January 1969, Chan Khong joined her teacher in France, and they got involved with organizing a conference to present the views of Vietnam’s voiceless majority—those people who were neither communist nor anticommunist, who just wanted peace. Out of this conference, came the Vietnamese Buddhist Peace Delegation, and Nhat Hanh was nominated to be the chair. For her part, Chan Khong was to help with the administration, and she both lived and worked out of the delegation’s modest office, a rental in a poor Parisian neighborhood. The projects that they took on were varied and included raising money for orphans in Vietnam and producing a newsletter in French, Eng- lish, and Vietnamese. Chan Khong traveled throughout Europe and the United States speaking to audiences about the need for an immediate ceasefire. Finally, on April 30, 1975, the war came to an end. The suf- fering, however, did not. Terrified of communist rule, refugees began risking everything to flee Vietnam. If the government caught them trying to escape, they were either imprisoned or shot. If they succeeded in making it to sea, they were prey to pirates. And if they reached a foreign shore, they were often turned away—their rickety boats pushed back out into the water. Chan Khong’s despair was intense. There seemed to be nothing she could do to save her compatriots from the raping and robbing and killing. After months of meditation, however, she determined her path of action and initiated a rescue project. Chan Khong rented ➢ page 89 PHOTOSBYVELCROWRIPPER:VELCROWRIPPER.COMPHOTOBYDAVIDNELSON Right: Chan Khong at a Plum Village school near Prajna Monastery, Vietnam, 2007 Lower right: Chan Khong and Thich Nhat Hanh at Plum Village, 2006