The collapse of the Ngô Đình Diệms regime and the demise of the First Republic signified a new period in the history of South Vietnam. The Hòa Hảo Buddhist community as well as other victims of the ancien regime all had similar feelings that the oppression and restrictions of the previous nine years suddenly disappeared.
Since the founding of the Hòa Hảo community, peasants of the Hậu Giang region had joined the congregation due to religious reasons. The political and military activities of the Hòa Hảo community only served certain temporal goals of a certain historical period. Correspondingly, the Hòa Hảo military build-up, of the 1945-1955 period, was an important part of Hòa Hảo history. When the Hòa Hảo armed forces were destroyed by Diems military, it caused feelings of disillusionment among many Hòa Hảo followers. However, in the immediate aftermath of the demise of Ngô Đình Diệms regime, the Hòa Hảo community refrained from revitalizing its armed forces.
Instead, the Hòa Hảo followers clearly prioritized a movement towards the revival of their religious life. Revitalization of the political activities, notably the Social-Democratic Party, remained a second priority.
On December 1, 1963, just in one month following Ngô Đình Diệms demise, the Hòa Hảo community held a preparatory congress in the Hòa Hảo Holy Land. The Hòa Hảo activists voted to restore their church, or Giáo Hội. The activists also filed a petition seeking the Interior Ministrys registration and approval of the Hòa Hảo Churchs Charter, or Bản Điều Lệ.
In the aftermath of the nine-year period of coerced inaction, the revitalization of the community life commenced with the election of dignitaries on the grass-root level. In other words, a newly elected Administrative Committees, or Ban Trị Sự, on the hamlet and village level became a cornerstone of the revived Hòa Hảo Church. Subsequently, Hòa Hảo institutions on the district and province level were formed.
On November 18, 1964, approximately one thousand representatives convened at the Hòa Hảo National Congress and elected the Central Administrative Committee, or Ban Trị Sự Trung Ương. As a result, for the first time since 1939, the Hòa Hảo community formed an institutionalized church with a hierarchical structure. The Central Administrative Committee consisted of the Administrative board and the Control Board, or Hội đồng Bảo pháp.
Since the departure of Huỳnh Phú Sổ, none of the Hòa Hảo followers had been in position to claim absolute religious authority. Therefore, leadership bodies of the Hòa Hảo Church were formed in the course of an election process. Two main criteria were used to select the candidates: they were to be trusted disciples of Huỳnh Phú Sổ and they were supposed to demonstrate their fidelity to Hòa Hảo principles. Subsequently, direct elections at congresses were replaced by a process of nomination by the Electoral Committee, or Hội đồng Bầu cử, which included representatives of all provincial congregations.
Paradoxically, in the wake of Ngô Đình Diệms demise, the activities of the Hòa Hảo Buddhist Church remained restricted as stipulated by the notorious Decree No 10. Correspondingly, the legal status of the Hòa Hảo congregation, as well as the Caodaist community, remained limited by the Decree within narrow frames of public associations status. For instance, the Hòa Hảo Churchs Charter, or Bản Điều Lệ, was to be approved by the Interior Ministry in order to become a valid legal document. Without official approval, the Hòa Hảo congregation would have been viewed as an illegal association. Surprisingly, the Catholic Church still was not subject to the restrictions mentioned above.
Obviously, all non-Catholic religious communities were keen to annul this unfair and antiquated legislation. Nonetheless, the Hòa Hảo Churchs Charter was registered in line with the old procedure: it was approved on February 5, 1964 by the decree No 112/BNV/KS of the Interior Ministry.
On July 12, 1965, following the active lobbying by the Hoa Hao activists, the government issued Decree 002/65, Sắc luật 002/65, in which it recognized the Hòa Hảo community as a religious congregation, and hence, no longer subject to Decree No 10. Consequently, a new Hòa Hảo Churchs Charter, or Bản Hiến Chương, was approved to replace the previous Charter of December 1963.
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