NCSR 2008 - Urban Diversity and Religious Traditions
13-15 August 2008, Åbo Akademi University

From Here to There. Vietnamese Buddhism, New Pagodas and Old Switzerland

Frank Weigelt, University of Lucerne

In the late 1970s and the early 1980s, several thousand Vietnamese “boat people” came to Switzerland. The Vietnamese fled their land in the fear of the new communistic regime and its adverse policy against religious leaders and religion as such.
The refugees decided by themselves to leave their established and known cultural context in order to migrate to a new, mostly unknown country with different patterns and rules. Vietnamese people took with them their traditional patterns of world view and religious belonging, “carrying” these in a “global cultural flow” to a new symbolic context, i.e. Switzerland.
In this new situation, the Vietnamese people and the Vietnamese Buddhist were driven to present and structure thereselves (identities) in a new context and in another social environment. They had to define situations of co-presence with others; and to re-establish their ethno-religious understanding of organizational forms like the Sangha in Switzerland and Europe. This “traditional” form of community had to be new interpreted in terms of association or club, and one of the central ideas here is that people act as they do because of how they define situations.