Tag: <span>Christian</span>

Crackdown on Buddhism in Tibet Appeals

Crackdown on Buddhism in Tibet?.

Sakya Monastery, Tibet. Sakya Monastery was founded in 1073, by Konchok Gyelpo and is situated about 130 km west of Shigatse on the road to Tingri. By I, Luca Galuzzi, CC BY-SA 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons.

By Rene Wadlow.

There have been periodical periods of repression on religious liberty in Tibet by the Chinese government usually related to broader policies concerning religion on the part of the government.  We may be in such a period now as there is a Muslim element in the repressive policy toward the Uyghurs in Xiaoping and a less obvious Christian element in the repressive policy in Hong Kong;  where Christian churches and Christian-related universities are strong champions of human rights.  It is also possible that recent events in Afghanistan have made some government officials more aware of the religious element in political trends.

The reasons for the crackdown were not articulated by the police authorities who only cited having photos of the Dalai Lama and correspondence with Tibetans living in India and Nepal for the closing of Kharmar Monastery in Gansu Provence in late July and the arrest of over 120 Tibetans including six monks from Dza Wompo Gaden Shedrup Monastery in early September.

The Uyghurs

 Uyghurs praying in East Turkestan. By Preston Rhea, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Crackdown on Buddhism.

Crackdown in religious practice in Tibet has been periodical.  In 1951 Chinese government troops entered Tibet under a “17 Point Agreement” which left Tibet largely autonomous under the Dalai Lama.  However, in March 1959, China imposed the socialist system on Tibet in the name of “democratic reforms”.  The Dalai Lama, fearing that he would be arrested left for India, followed by his entourage of highly trained lamas and later by other Tibetans.  The Tibetans were settled in the Himalaya hill station of Daramsala by the Indian government.

In May 1966, Mao Zedong launched the “Great Cultural Revolution” to “Smash the four olds” (old ideology, old culture, old customs, and old habits).  A large number of monasteries, temples and shrines were destroyed in Tibet.

Again, in March 1989, martial law was declared in Lhasa following three days of riots during which thousands of Tibetans took to the streets to attack Chinese-owned stores and government offices.  There was a crackdown on religious practice as Buddhism and a sense of nationhood remain for most Tibetans common mobilizing symbols despite the decades of Chinese rule.

 

The Dalai Lama

 

The Dalai Lama. By kris krüg, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Middle Way Approach.

At other times, there have been meetings between Chinese officials and representatives of the Dalai Lama such as those of 2002 when the Dalai Lama’s representatives set out a “Middle Way Approach” to secure genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people within the scope of the constitution of the People’s Republic of China.  In a follow up meeting in 2008, a detailed memorandum of “Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People” was presented by the Tibetan representatives. There were meetings in 2010 to clarify concerns and possible misinterpretations of the Memorandum, although there has been no formal follow up since 2010.

Within China itself, there is an increasing interest in Tibetan traditions of Buddhism. There are some 50 institutes specializing in Tibetan studies. The interest is both cultural and spiritual as some Chinese search for a meaning in life.

Thus it is not clear if the recent arrests are the start of a broader crackdown or the actions of local police officials.  From the outside, those of us concerned with safeguarding religious liberty must follow events in China closely.

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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Religious Appeals

Religious Liberty: Continuing Efforts by NGOs Needed.

Image By S. Hermann & F. Richter in Pixabay

by Rene Wadlow.

22 August has been set by the United Nations General Assembly as the

“International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief”.

Due to Nazi and Japanese militarist persecution of religious groups during the Second World War;   freedom of religion and belief was on the U.N. agenda from the start of the organization. The issue is at the heart of article 18  of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;  proclaimed in 1948.

Religious non-governmental organizations (NGOs);  were active during the San Francisco conference;  at which the drafting of the U.N. Charter was completed. It was due in part to their active efforts  that an article creating a consultative status for NGOs;  was included into the U.N. Charter. NGOs in consultative status with the U.N;  can make U.N. bodies aware of issues by providing timely;  factual information. Often NGOs will address matters to U.N. agencies;  when governmental delegations keep silence. The duty of NGOs is not to speak against States;  but for the interests of humanity and human rights.

Spiritual But not Religious.

Although religious NGOs have had a wide range of interests to stress at U.N;  meetings and conferences;  such as the status of women, ecology, food policies;  liberty of religion and belief;  has always been a concern. The concern of religious liberty is not limited to religious NGOs;  but is also championed by secular NGOs;  such as Amnesty International and the Association of World Citizens.

Over time;  there has developed a fairly large number of people;  who consider themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” There has been the development of a growing number of associations devoted to practices;  which have their roots in religious traditions;  but can also be independent such as yoga, meditation, Chi Quong. Such associations often fall outside the usual governmental protection of religions – their tax status or other facilities concerning their buildings and properties.

Amnesty International
Amnesty International at the Bologna Pride 2012, in Bologna, Italy. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, June 9 2012. By G.dallorto, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons.

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The U.N. holds that the religious liberty provisions of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration;  are not limited in their applications to traditional religions;  or to religions and beliefs;  with institutional characteristics or practices  similar to those of traditional religions. Thus;  newly established movements and religious minorities should be protected.

Article 18 of the Univesal Declaration of Human Rights is developed in detail by the: 

“Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance nd Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief”.

Adopted by the General Assembly on 25 November 1981. The Declaration recognizes that every individual has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, expression, and religion. The importance of inter-religious dilogue; is stresssed as is the need for intensified efforts to protect the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief and to eliminate all forms of hatred, intolerance and discrimination;  based on religion or belief.

There is a hope that tolerance and pluralism will strengthen democracy;  facilitate the full enjoyment of all human rights; and thereby constitute a sound foundation for civil society;  social harmony and peace. Yet we are fully aware that forces of aggressive nationalism;  absence of religious tolerance;  religious and ethnic extremism continue to produce fresh challenges.

the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt holding poster of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in English), Lake Success, New York. November 1949. By FDR Presidential Library & Museum, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Islamic State (ISIS).

A tragic current example of victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief;  is that of the Yazidis of Iraq at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS). The Yazidi world view is Zoroastrian;  a faith born in Persia proclaiming that two great cosmic forces;  that of light and good;  and that of darkness and evil are in constant battle. Humans are called upon to help light overcome evil.

However;  the strict dualistic thinking of Zoroastrianism was modified by another Persian prophet: Mani of Ctesiphon in the third century CE.  Mani tried to create a synthesis of religious;  teachings that were increasingly coming into contact through travel and trade:  Buddhim and Hinduism from India;  Jewish and Christian thought;  Helenistic Gnostic philosophy from Egypt and Greece as well as many smaller;  traditional and “animist” beliefs.

Islamic State

Variant of the jihadist black flag. This particular version is used by the “Islamic State of Iraq” and by al-Shabaab in Somalia. By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.


Demon Worshipers.

He kept the Zoroastrian dualism as the most easily understood intellectual framework though;  giving it a somewhat more Taoist (yin-yang) flexibility. Mani had  lived in China. He developed the idea of the progression of the soul;  by individual effort through separate lives through reincarnation – a main feature of Indian thought. He combined the idea of spiritual progress through different lives;  with ethical insights of Gnostic and Christian thought. Unfortunately;  only the dualistic Zoroastrian framework is still attached to Mani’s nme: Manichaeism. This is somewhat ironic as it was the Zoroastrian Magi;  who had Mani put to death as a dangerous rival.

Within the Mani-Zoroastrian framework;  the Yazidi added the presence of angels;  who are to help humans in the constant battle for light and good. The Yazidi place great emphasis on Melek Tauis;  the peacock angel. Although there are angels in Islam;  angels that one does not know could well be demons;  and so the Yazidis are regularly accused of being “demon worshipers”.

Collateral Damage.

There are probably some 500,000 Kurdish-speaking Yazidis in Iraq. Iraq demographic statistics are not fully reliable. Yazidi leaders may give larger estimates by counting Kurds;  who had been Yazidis;  but had been converted to Islam. There had been some 200,000 Yazidis among the Kurds of Turkey;  but now nearly all have migrated to Western Europe, Australia and Canada. There are smaller groups of Yazidis in Syria, Armenia and Georgia. (1)

The Yazidis have often been persecuted for their beliefs;  and as part of the Kurdish-speaking community. This was true during the period of the Ottoman Empire;  as well as during the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party rule of Iraq. However;  the most recent and dramatic form of persecution came at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS).

The Association of World Citizens stressed that the policy of the ISIS leadership was genocide – the destruction in whole or in part of a group. The killing of the Yazidis is a policy and not “collateral damage” from fighting. While ISIS has lost much of the territory in Iraq and Syria that it once held;  the trauma  continues. The Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief call upon NGOs for continued speedy and effective action.

Note:

1) See Nelida Fuccaro. The Other Kurds in Colonial Iraq (London: I.B. Tauris, 1999)

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

World Refugee Day.

June 20 is the United Nations (UN)-designated World Refugee Day;  marking the signing in 1951 of the Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has become a “hot”…

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