It is a new phenomenon, at least for the West. Buddhist monks - in large numbers - take a political stand. They did it last year in Burma (Myanmar) and they are doing it now in Tibet. Of course, they do it peacefully. They will not hurt people, nor destroy people’s possessions. That’s not their way. But their protests are therefore not less effective. The Burmese junta is in trouble. The generals are still in denial, but that’s a matter of time.
In the meantime, fires have broken out in the Tibetan city of Lhasa amid reports of rioting. The rioting, destruction and looting is not promoted by the Buddhist monks, but they cannot always avoid it. As protests gather pace, sometimes things get out of hand and some violence to people or goods may occur. When there is a lot of bottled up emotion, it is difficult to control it when it bursts forth. However, on the whole Monk-Protests are as peaceful as they can be.
What about Western Monks and Priests? Why are they quiet?
We do not see such involvement in politics by monks and priests in the West. They do not want to interfere. In Cuba the Christian Church has been allowed back in, but they stay away from politics. Of course, getting involved is dangerous. There are many political prisoners in Cuban prisons. But then, we cannot expect to change things without any sacrifice. The first who should understand that, are the priests. They should lead.
Now, immediately comes to mind the power of the Pope in centuries past when there was no separation between Church and State. We are not advocating a return to Priest Rule. On the contrary. But when abuse against people reaches a level when conscience cannot condone it any longer, it is the Priests’ duty to be the first to speak out. But in the West they usually don’t. In Cuba they don’t. This undermines their credibility as moral leaders.
Government should remain in the hands of lay people. For as soon as it gets into the hands of Priests, loyalty to their religion will take them down the path of discrimination against other religions. This has happened throughout the centuries everywhere in the world. We see it now in Islamic countries, in the Jewish state, as well as in certain Christian nations. There is even a tendency in this direction in the USA at present with disastrous results.
This does not mean that religion is fake or unimportant. On the contrary. Religion is very important. It is the moral basis of a community. A State without God is like a House without a Foundation. It is just that our best chance of maintaining peace is to separate spiritual power from political power, as we separate ‘the subtle from the gross’. Both have their own roles to play in society, but each functions best acting separately. At least until the time when the Priests themselves understand that there is basically only one religion. That time has not yet come.
Free Tibet and counter fascism!
The BBC reported on 14 March 2008 how in Llasa, Tibet, large groups of people were setting fire to cars and shops and destroying anything of Chinese influence. The US embassy in Beijing said US citizens had reported hearing gunfire. Rallies have continued all week in what are thought to be the largest protests against Beijing’s rule in 20 years. The eyewitness who spoke to the BBC said there was a thick pall of smoke hanging over the city.
The US-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said at least one police car had been set on fire on Friday. ICT spokeswoman Kate Saunders said her group had received reports that the Tromsikhang market in Barkor Street - a busy commercial neighborhood - was either on fire or had burnt down. “It seems that lay people have now become involved in the protests”, she said.
Don’t forget, the authorities do use violent means
As said, non-violent resistance does sometimes spin out of control. While this is not intended, it cannot always be avoided. Don’t forget that, like the Burmese junta, the Chinese authorities do use violent means to put down any protests. Violence breeds violence. But the Monks will do all that is in their power to contain it. We would like to hear Western priests at the very least speak out against the rising tide of fascism in our part of the world.
It is clear that in the case of Tibet there are powerful international forces backing the claim for Tibetan independence. We mention the USA and UK. Now, that in itself is suspect, for their form of globalization is coinciding with a rising tide of fascism, which we strongly oppose. Nevertheless, in this case we agree that Tibet (any part of the world really) should be free to choose its own destiny, including full independence. This should be done by referendum. The selected video gives some impression of what is going on in Tibet at the moment.