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Updated: August 12, 1997 05:00 PM GMT
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The Vietnam government recently sanctioned the first general assembly of Cao Dai Ban Chinh Dao, a branch of an indigenous religious sect, government media report.

The recognition signals a more relaxed government policy toward Cao Dai, which claims a total of 4 million followers, especially among farmers in southern Vietnam, a local Church source said.

The July 7 assembly elected a nine-member board to oversee internal affairs of the branch and approved a new constitution, election by-laws and program activities for the year 2000.

It also issued a document calling on the branch´s more than a million followers to show unity and solidarity with the whole nation for the cause of the sect and the development of the country.

The assembly was held at the branch´s headquarters in Ben Tre, 80 kilometers south of Ho Chi Minh City, with 229 delegates representing 250 temples in 26 cities and provinces attending.

Also present were representatives of the central and local governments, the Fatherland Front, other Cao Dai branches and other religions in the province.

Winning earlier government recognition were Cao Dai of Tay Ninh, Cao Dai Minh Chon Dao, Cao Dai Chieu Minh Long Chau and Cao Dai Truyen Giao.

Ben Tre has been the headquarters of Cao Dai Ban Chinh Dao, or reformed Cao Dai, since it split 28 years ago from the original sect, Cao Dai of Tay Ninh, which was recognized by the government in early April.

Cao Dai (high place), founded in 1926, is a religio-cultural syncretism of Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism and Christianity.


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