In one account three monks were thrown into a deep pit. "The public were made to urinate on them while the Chinese urged the monks to fly out of the pit." In another report, "a monk who begged the Chinese not to use the Buddhist scriptures as toilet paper had his arm cut off and was told to ask God to give him another one."
The Tibetan Government in Exile reports that 6,000 monasteries were destroyed by the Chinese armies in the first decade of their rule in Tibet. More than a million deaths have been attributed to Chinese oppression. Tibetans have been subject to mass reeducation programs, and resistance has meant abuse, rape, torture, and imprisonment.
One nun gave this testimony of her beating by Chinese guards: "They told me to take off my clothes. They made me take off everything. They told me to lie with my face down, and started beating me with sticks. I died with shame as so many people were watching. Later the beating was so unbearable that I forgot about my shame."
As of 1998 there were over 1,000 Tibetans in prison for their political, religious, and ethical views. The Beijing government has outlawed pictures of the Dalai Lama and forced Tibetan monks to denounce him. Tibetan women are often forced to be sterilized, to use contraception, and to abort their children. Some reports estimate that almost one-fourth of China's nuclear missile force is now located in Tibet. Chinese immigrants now outnumber Tibetans in their own land. Tibetans have been robbed of their language, culture, and religion.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), based in Geneva, has documented the case against Beijing since the late 1950s. The ICJ writes in its report, Tibet: Human Rights and the Rule of Law (1997):
Tibetans are a people under alien subjugation entitled to the right of self-determination. The Tibetan people have not yet exercised this right which requires a free and genuine expression of their will. The ICJ therefore calls for a referendum in Tibet under United Nations supervision to ascertain the wishes of the Tibetan people.
In his interview with Christianity Today, the Dalai Lama said he deeply appreciates the help of Christians in addressing the Communist oppression of Tibet. "I urge Christian brothers and sisters as spiritual brothers and sisters to study more about the situation in Tibet, especially in regard to religious freedom." He also said it would help if Christians wrote the United States government on Tibetan matters. When asked about donations of money, he mentioned that many Christians have provided immense help to the Tibetan people. "We will always be grateful," he said.
Empathy for the Dalai Lama's role in leading the Tibetan Government in Exile does not demand an uncritical endorsement of his every political move, past or present. Melvyn Goldstein, one of the leading scholars of Sino-Tibetan relations, makes this point in The Snow Lion and the Dragon. Goldstein writes, "The Dalai Lama knows intellectually that he needs more friends and supporters in Beijing, not Washington or New York City, but he finds it emotionally difficult to take appropriate actions to achieve that end."
Given the brutalization of Tibet since the Communist invasion in 1950, both Christian and Buddhist belief systems are now under threat. Christian presence in Tibet has been minimal through the centuries. This was due largely to Tibet's geographical isolation but also to hostility to a missionary presence, especially when Tibetans became followers of Christ. There have been occasional acts of violence against the small Christian communities.
If the Dalai Lama were able to exercise leadership again in Tibet, would he allow freedom of religion?
"Certainly!" he said. He talked about the Muslim presence in Tibet during the last four centuries and claimed there had been no government discrimination against Christians when the Dalai Lamas ruled Tibet. He said that he values religious witness as long as it is not coercive.
"And if a Christian wants to tell you that you should accept Jesus, it's a free world, they can say it?"
"Oh yes," he said. "Oh yes."
Copyright © 2001 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Other articles appearing in our Buddhism series today include:
Buddhism's Guru | The Dalai Lama, a spiritual hero to millions, works to liberate Tibet, calls on spirits, and believes Jesus lived previous lives. (June 8, 2001)
Basic Buddhism| What the Dalai Lama and his followers believe about God, Buddha, and other teachings. (June 8, 2001)
Weighed Down by Karmic Debt | Aspects of Tibetan spirituality should give Christians pause. (June 8, 2001)
Inside CT: Straight Outta Dharamsala | Behind James A. Beverley's report on the Dalai Lama (June 8, 2001)
Tibetan government in exileis Tibet's official site, with sections on recent news, the present situation in Tibet, government information, and Tibetan culture.
The Atlantic Monthlyexamines Tibet through Chinese eyes.
China celebrated the 50th anniversary of its "peaceful liberation"of Tibet with a flag-raising ceremony in the capital, Lhasa.
Radioland Netherlandsexamines torture, Buddhist culture, and the government in exile in an article on Tibet's current state of affairs.
The Tibet Information Networkis an independent news and research service reporting on Tibet today.
The Milarepa Fund, founded by musical artists the Beastie Boys, supports the Tibetan people's struggle to regain freedom through grassroots activism and events such as the Tibetan Freedom Concerts.
China in Tibet: A selection of reports and readingsexamines Chinese policy in Tibet through narratives and a chronology of Tibet's history.
For more articles, see Yahoo's full coverage area on Tibet and the Dalai Lama.
The U.S. Department of State has reports on human rightsand religious freedom in Tibet.
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