Thousands of Buddhists attended a special service to pray for their aborted unborn children. The event occurred due in good part to efforts of Catholic prolife activists.

Heads bowed and tears falling, more than 4000 Buddhists attended a ritual at Tu Quang Pagoda in Saigon last Thurday to pray for their 9000 unborn children who had not been given the chance to live; and for the peace inside themselves.

Participants in the service were required to report honestly the number of abortions they had had. A Buddhist nun who helped to record the names of aborted unborn children and their parents reported that, on top of the list, there were women with 20 abortions. “More alarming, there were young girls in their teens with up to 4 abortions,” said Nun Thanh Lai.

In recent years, Vietnam abortion rate has been continuously skyrocketing. According to the Vietnam Family Planning Association, the country has one of the world's highest abortion rates. About 2.1 million abortions are performed annually in the country, which has a population of 82 million. In fact, abortion has been considered the national policy on birth control. It is legal and both public and private clinics are allowed to perform the practice.

The wide and easy availability of abortion services, the pressure on pregnant women at work and at home, and poverty are usually cited to explain the soaring rate of abortions.

Unprecedentedly, the event at Tu Quang pagoda has been fairly reported with good comments by some state media outlets. It probably reflects growing concerns over the social welfare and the moral health of the society.

The Thanh Nien Weekly, one of state media outlets which reported the prolife event, applauded efforts of Venerable Thich Giac Thien, the chief monk of the pagoda who organized the service. It also interviewed doctors at the two largest maternity facilities in Saigon. Dr. Tran Son Thach at Hung Vuong hospital reported 18,600 abortion cases performed in his venue during the first nine months of this year. 21,000 more cases recorded at Tu Du hospital, in which “girls aged under 19 account for 10 percent, from just 5 to 7 percent during the past years,” Dr. Duong Phuong Mai said.

In recent years, Catholic prolife activists have reached out to Buddhists who claim for more than 80% of the population.

“Prolife activities should not be limited within Catholics. Otherwise, we just touch the surface of an iceberg," said Anh Tuyet, a university student in Saigon who has actively involved in prolife campaigns.

There are many prolife initiatives that Catholics in Vietnam have carried out among non-Catholics.

Typically, in the coastal town of Nha Trang, Tong Phuoc Phuc, a 42-year-old Catholic building contractor took home pregnant girls who were evicted by their parents and had no place to go. Like other unwed pregnant women, the girls went to state-run hospitals with an intention to get a quick and free abortion. But, there they met with Phuc who persuaded them to seek an alternative. Phuc even went further providing residence and financial support for them until they gave birth and once again were welcomed home by their parents.

In the past 4 years, he has taken in 60 children, 26 of them have been taken home with their mothers.

Bishop Joseph Vo Duc Minh, coadjutor bishop of Nha Trang, warmly praises Phuc’s work: “It’s a great pro-life innovation. I have come to his house several times to encourage his work and to pray with him.”

“In this house, I experience true love”, says Nguyen Thi Ngoc Thao, a Buddhist mother of two who was thrown out by her husband when she refused to terminate her pregnancy.