The Dalai Lama Tells Religious Freedom Summit That Love ‘Is the Real Message’

The 86-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader avoids criticism of China in appeal for tolerance and unity.
2021-07-15
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The Dalai Lama Tells Religious Freedom Summit That Love ‘Is the Real Message’ Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama (C) leaves after attending a conference on on the 600th death anniversary of Lama Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism to which Dalai Lama belongs, in McLeod Ganj, India, May 5, 2019.
AFP

Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama addressed the closing day of an International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit in Washington Thursday with a call for people of faith and nonbelievers alike to “be kind, honest, and truthful'' -- the shared values of all faiths despite their differences.

“Theistic traditions believe in a creator, whereas non-theistic traditions like Jainism, Buddhism and so on, follow a different line of reasoning. But the message they have in common is to be kind, honest, and truthful,” the 86-year-old Tibetan monk said in videotaped message from his home in India.

“These days, I emphasize that we need to understand that entire 7 billion human beings (alive today) are the same,” he said.

The three-day summit, which began Tuesday, addressed religious persecution around the world, but focused heavily on China’s targeting of Muslim Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in a crackdown on the minority group and its language, religion, and culture that intensified in 2017.

Multiple senior U.S. officials on Wednesday called for stepped up pressure on China to change harsh policies in Xinjiang, which Washington and a handful of European parliaments have determined constitute genocide.

“The Uyghur case is just such a profoundly disastrous situation and it is a current and ongoing genocide,” Sam Brownback, former U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom under the Trump administration, told RFA’s Uyghur Service in an interview.

The situation in Tibet -- which has been under harsh Chinese rule similar to that of Xinjiang -- was mentioned in passing by Brownback and other figures including House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Chen Quanquo, who as Chinese Communist Party (CCP) secretary introduced pervasive high-tech surveillance and launched a program of internment camps that have held as many as 1.8 million Uyghurs, was the  CCP’s parry chief in Tibet before his transfer to Xinjiang five years ago.

The Dalai Lama eschewed comments on repression in Tibet and elsewhere in favor of a universal message on freedom of belief and mutual tolerance.

“Religious freedom is actually an expression of freedom of thought,” he said in a message shown to the summit’s closing night dinner.

“Our various religious traditions have different philosophies and different practices, but all carry the same message—a message of love, forgiveness, contentment, and self-discipline. Even for those with no faith, these qualities—contentment, self-discipline and thinking more of others than yourself—are very relevant,” he said.

“There are many differences, but these ideas are related to methods to increase love, which is the real message,” said the Dalai Lama.

“In the past, and unfortunately even today, religions have been manipulated for political reasons, or out of concern for power, leading to fighting among some of their followers. We should leave such thoughts in the past,” he added.

Pelosi and other senior U.S. political figures marked the Tibet spiritual leader’s celebrating the 86th birthday on July 6 with greetings and words of support for Tibetans.

Pelosi tweeted birthday greetings to the Dalai Lama, calling the exiled spiritual leader’s birthday “an opportunity for all people to recommit to ensuring the Tibetan people can practice their religion, speak their language and celebrate their culture freely without interference or intimidation from Beijing.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed “deep respect and appreciation for His Holiness’ grace, wisdom, and humility, as well as his dedication to greater global equality and the equal rights of all people, including his fellow Tibetans.”

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 Tibetan national uprising against rule by China, which marched into the formerly independent Himalayan country in 1950.

Displays by Tibetans of the Dalai Lama’s photo, public celebrations of his birthday, and the sharing of his teachings on mobile phones or other social media are often harshly punished.

Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on Tibet and on Tibetan-populated regions of western China, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to imprisonment, torture, and extrajudicial killings.

Reported by Kalden Lodoe and Tenzin Dickey for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Written in English by Paul Eckert.

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