Updated 2012-09-25 23:18:07

(Reported from Columbia, Missouri by Tua Le, September 13th, 2012-Translated by T. Em)

On September 8th, 2012, the Cao Dai Religion’s Overseas Missionary delegation comprising of Student-Priest Ngoc Canh Thanh (Tran Quang Canh), Head of the delegation, fellow female adherent Vo Kim Thoan and Deputy Chief of Administrative Committee of the Parish in Washington DC Le Van Tua came and gave a presentation on Cao Dai Religion at the University of Missouri in Columbia city, Missouri. It may be worth reminding that this visit was to follow the invitation of Professor Joe Hobbs, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Geography of the University of Missouri, Columbia. He invited the Sacerdotal Council of Cao Dai Holysee in Tay Ninh, Vietnam to speak about the young Vietnamese religion called Cao Dai. However, being too busy with religious matters at the Tay Ninh Cao Dai Holysee (specifically preparing for the incoming General Assembly of the Popular Council and the Sacerdotal Council), His Eminence Cardinal, Chairman of the Sacerdotal Council nominated Student-Priest Ngoc Canh Thanh, who is currently responsible for the Cao Dai Religion’s Overseas Missionary, to take the trip and make the presentation on his behalf.

The University of Missouri-Columbia is a public research university which was founded in 1893 in Columbia city in the state of Missouri. This was the first university located west of the Mississipi River. This university has got its short name called Mizzou University, currently enrolling 35 thousand students and offering around 280 different subjects of all training programs. Another noticeable feature about this university is its multinational student community who come from almost 100 different countries in all over the world. The Mizzou University has earned its number-one reputation in the United States for its prominent Media training program followed by Medicine, Agriculture and Veterinary studies. This university campus is a very large one covering an area of 1300 acres (equivalent to 350 hectares) and all its departments are located within the campus. The Columbia city has got around 120 thousand inhabitants of which one third is students and the Mizzou University is the city’s largest employer with 13.000 employees. The Department of Religious Studies of this university itself has got over 200 students and the Department of Geography has got approximately 100 ones. One noticeable feature of the Department of Geography is that it not only teaches geography but also other subjects such as socio-cultural studies of different countries, religious influence and human welfare.

The delegation was picked up at the Columbia airport by the Missouri University Vietnamese Student Association (MUVSA) upon the university’s authority. The hosts at the airport were Mr. Nhat Quang, President of MUVSA and other members named Thong, Hieu and Ninh.

Right after that at 3 p.m on the same day September 8th, the Delegation had to be available at the University of Missouri to attend an interview hosted by The Columbia Missourian Newspaper for its hottest news column. The female journalist Grace Lyden interviewed the Student-Priest Ngoc Canh Thanh for almost an hour focusing on Cao Dai Religion and the purpose of the delegation’s visit.

Click here to watch the bulletin of The Missourian Newspaper

Click here to watch the article written by Grace Lyden

On the following Sunday September 9, Professor Larry Brown from the Department of Geography invited the delegation to attend a service at the Olivet Christian Church. Minister Dennis Swearngin warmly welcomed and introduced the delegation to all the church members attending the service. Then, Professor Brown treated the delegation to lunch at an Indian restaurant. At 3 p.m on the same day, we had to be back to the university again to attend the second interview by Columbia Radio Station and female journalist Kellie Kotraba who interviewed Student-Priest Canh for almost an hour.

Click here to listen to the interview radio broadcast on Radio Columbia

Right after the interview, the Missouri University Vietnamese Student Association invited the delegation to come to a Vietnamese student’s campus home to meet with other Vietnamese students who are currently studying at Mizzou. On behalf of about ten students at the meeting who are doing their doctor degree, President Quang of MUVSA reported that there are approximately 70 Vietnamese students in the association which is quite a large community in comparison with other student associations at Mizzou. Because the university is in a rather small Columbia city, all Vietnamese students almost know each other quite well and offer help when it is necessary. Student-Priest Ngoc Canh Thanh introduced the Cao Dai Religion and explained the purpose of the delegation’s visit to Mizzou University to the MUVSA. The talk was in a warm and friendly atmosphere amongst fellow Vietnamese expatriates.

At 9:30 a.m on Monday September 10, under the guide of Professor Joe Hobbs, the delegation came to meet with Korean Professor Sang Kim, Director of Asian Affairs Center at Mizzou University. Professor Kim said he had been to Vietnam twice to discuss student exchange according to a cooperation program between Mizzou University and Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training but he had not had any chance to visit the Tay Ninh Cao Dai Holy See. And he also expressed his great interest in this young religion. Professor Kim and Professor Hobbs then discussed the possibility of granting scholarships to Vietnamese students who are practicing Caodaism to do their graduate degrees at Mizzou University in the academic year 2013. That evening, Professor Kim treated the delegation to dinner at a famous Korean restaurant in the city of Columbia.

At 11 a.m on the same day, the delegation came and talked with students at a class called Geography of Well-being. There were 12 students in the class and they all were doing their Master Degrees. The class’s professor was Mathew Foulkes. Student-Priest Canh briefly introduced the human being welfare in Cao Dai Religion and explained in general the doctrine of the religion. This talk lasted for almost an hour.

Then at 12:30 p.m, the delegates met with Professor Richard Callahan, Dean of the Department of Religious Studies. Professor Callahan warmly welcomed the delegates, introduced the training programs of the department and talked about requirements to a Vietnamese candidate for a Master course. Then, Professor Callahan said he had already arranged for the delegation’s presentation on Cao Dai Religion in a classroom of 200 students and revealed that he had encouraged his students to choose the topic of Cao Dai Religion for their Master dissertations.   

From 4 p.m to 5:30 p.m, the delegates made a presentation on Cao Dai Religion at Professor Joe Hobbs’s class which consisted of 33 students. Professor Sang Kim and female journalist Kellie Kotraba were also present at the presentation.

On Tuesday September 11, the delegation made the third and last presentation from 9:30 a.m to 11 a.m at a class taught by Professor Kate Kelley and there were approximately 200 students present in a big auditorium. These students are all studying a subject called “New Religious movements in the world” so both the Professor and students were eagerly listening to the presentation. In the afternoon of the same day, Professor Sang Kim asked one of his staffs to tour the delegates to some famous places in Columbia city. Later that evening, the Cao Dai Religion delegates in return invited Professor Hobbs, Professor Sang Kim and some Vietnamese students to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant named Saigon Bistro.   

In total, there were more than 250 students attending the three presentations on Cao Dai Religion. The first part of the presentation was showing a 12-minute video about the Cao Dai Holy See in Tay Ninh province in Vietnam, some big religious ceremonies such as the Celebration of Mother Goddess Festival, the Ceremony of returning the Octagonal tomb of His Holiness Pope Pham Cong Tac, all of which were to introduce students to the religion’s rituals, colorful religious costumes of dignitaries and religious activities. After the video show came the presentation on the purpose, doctrine, philosophy, history and organisation of Cao Dai Religion. Student-Priest Canh stressed his wish that there would be more and more professors, students or researchers to study and write more books on Cao Dai in English as the English books about the Cao Dai religion are really rare. The Sacerdotal Council of Cao Dai Holy See is willing to support those who are interested in studying Cao Dai religion. Student-Priest Canh added that the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh had made Cao Dai Religion its official subject for students and hoped that other universities would do the same. In the Questions and Answers session, most of the questions focused on Spiritualism.  The souvenir exchange ended the presentation.

Cao Dai Religion is a young one which needs to be popularized to the world and it is the goal of any overseas Cao Dai followers who play the major role in this popularization as they are competent in the language of the native people of the place where they are living now (English, French, German etc..). His Holiness Li Tai Pai, Spiritual Pope, in one of his messages, revealed that where there are Vietnamese, there is Cao Dai religion. The Sacerdotal Council in Tay Ninh is really concerned and willing to support such a mission.      

From left : Ph.D candidate Quang, Mrs. Thoan, Student-Priest Canh and Tua Le


Reporter Grace Lyden interviewing Dignitary Canh Tran

With Dr. Joe Hobbs in front of  Olivet Christian Church

The Caodai delegation with Pastor and Mrs Swearngin, Dr. Hobbs and Prof. Larry Brown

The delegation and Dr. Joe Hobbs in front of the main entrance of Mizzou U.

Radio Reporter Kellie Kotraba interviewing Dignitary Canh Tran

Prof. Sang Kim, Director of Asian Affairs Center et dignitary Canh Tran

In front of the Asian Affairs Center of  Missouri University

Presentation at Prof. Matthew Foulkes's Geography class

Souvenir plaque to Prof. Matthew Foulkes

Break time for students in changing class

The Caodai delegation in front of the Department of Religious Studies

Meeting with Prof and Chair Richard Callahan

Souvenir plaque to Prof. Richard Callahan

Presentation at Dr. Joe Hobbs's class

 General overview of the class

Prof. Larry Brown (front row) listening to the presentation

Presentation of a souvenir plaque to Dr. Joe Hobbs

 From left : Dr. Hobbs, Prof. Sang Kim, Kellie Kotraba, Canh Tran, Mrs. Thoan and Mr. Tua Le

Overview of Prof. Kate Kelley's class

Prof. Kate Kelley listening to the presentation

Overview class with 200 students in attendance

Two students reading the Caodai brochure

                                                                                       Souvenir plaque to Prof. Kate Kelley