On June 11, 1963, Vietnamese monk Thích Quang Duc set himself on fire on a busy road in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). Quang Duc’s self-immolation was an act of protest against the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government.

The South Vietnamese government at the time was led by Catholic President Ngo Dinh Diem. His discriminatory policies against the Buddhists included a ban on flying the traditional Buddhist flag, unfair detentions, and a general second-hand treatment to Buddhists vis-a-vis the Catholics.


Quang Duc’s self-immolation came after the demands of religious tolerance and rights to Buddhists were not met by Diem’s government. Before setting himself on fire, the monk wrote a letter titled “The Heart of Prayer” where he left a message for President Diem.

The monk’s body was cremated for a second time at his funeral, but many believed that his heart did not burn. The intact heart relic is now regarded as a symbol of compassion.

Read all the articles in the Art of Resistance series here.