Friday, March 25, 2011

Reconciliation: One Vietnamese Clan's Example

On March 17, as Rick, Margaret, and I were walking home from an errand, I asked Rick if he would be interested in visiting a clan "temple" that we passed every day. I'd visited it a year or two earlier. He said yes, so I asked a woman in the yard if we could go in. She readily led us to a side door. Shedding shoes, we went inside. There we found another woman and young girl making a flower arrangement. She said go ahead and look around. A large altar occupies the center of the wall opposite the main entrance.
Here is a picture of the founder of this particular clan who was a mandarin in the court of the king in Hue at the time of arrival of the French. He (Truong Dang Que) is the 7th generation of descendants from a Truong who came to Tinh Khe area in the 1600s after serving three successive kings, the latter two as prime minister. As we prepared to leave, the woman arranging flowers told us she had come up from Ho Chi Minh City for a clan reunion which was to take place tomorrow. She invited us to attend and we said we'd try.
Next morning we went to the market with Tinh and purchased flowers and fruit as suitable gifts to bring to the celebration. We walked through the main gate, now open, and processed with our gifts under the scrutiny of numerous people standing outside on the steps. One woman came over and asked us in halting English where we were from.
"United States," I said and explained in Vietnamese that we'd been invited by a woman yesterday.
A couple of inquiries by Tinh located that woman who confirmed she'd invited us. We were invited in cordially and, after presenting our gifts at the alter, seated at one of the tables laden with food. A silver-haired gentleman introduced himself as the ranking member of this clan. He proceeded to tell us about the people gathered here.
"During the American war, our clan was divided. Some of us fought on the side of the Saigon government and some fought with the Revolutionaries. Now we have peace and that no longer matters. We are all one clan."
He himself had been an officer in the ARVN. At least one other man there had also been an officer in ARVN. There were at least two couples present who had come back from the U.S. for this reunion. One man seated at our table had been in the NLF (National Liberation Front - commonly called VC by Americans) right here in Quang Ngai in 1969. He knew of our rehabilitation center in the hospital and said he had visited our Quaker house several times. Spoke very favorably of us and our work.
I commented to our 'host', the former ARVN officer, that this clan seemed to accomplished 'hoa-giai' (reconciliation).
"Yes!," he said, "we have reconciled." Clearly, family is more important than politics.
Local members of the clan recognized us as 'the American teachers' due to our appearance on local TV. Tinh said that they felt honored that teachers had come to honor their ancestor.
I thought, "What a wonderful occasion for Quakers to join and observe this accomplishment of reconciliation."

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