I saw the face of Lobsang Lozin on a wall in the Tibetan Museum in Dharamshala. I was struck by the kindness in it. It’s a compassionate face, yet there is an element of devil may care in it too. It’s the face of someone who would stand by you. Strong, cheeky and brave. To me, it’s the face of a son every man would love to have and every mother would treasure.
I looked him up on the internet to try and gauge if I was right and all I got was: “Lobsang who has been described as an exemplary student with an excellent track record in his monastic studies set himself on fire at around 12 noon near his monastery’s main prayer hall and began walking towards the local Chinese office before falling down.”
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His was one of 147 faces of Tibetans on the museum wall who had self-immolated in protest over the intolerable burden of being under the Chinese government’s occupation of Tibet.
Free Tibet protesters demonstrate outside Australia’s Parliament House in March. Photo: Rod McGuirk
We all know today that Tibet is basically a Chinese government jail. The native Tibetans are being strangled in their own country. They have no freedom to be themselves and are being overrun by foreigners being moved in to make a minority of the people who have lived there for countless generations. Family members of those who self-immolate are severely punished. The Tibetans are punished if they even have photographs of their leader, the Dalai Lama.
The pain they are suffering, psychological and physical, cannot be described. Yet, for me, all that dissolved into this one photograph and I found myself in tears. I mourned Lobsang as I would my own son.
Though they daily face the torment of being treated as second rate citizens in their own country, being of a gentle, kind compassionate Buddhist nature, the Tibetan people don’t throw bombs or undertake acts of terror, they suffer in silence and self-immolate.
Of course, the craven stupidity of successive international governments and business leaders allows the Chinese government to get away with it. It is almost as if where there is money to be made or benefits to be received then sacrificing 3.18 million Tibetans is par for the course. They should hang their heads in shame.
I have no argument with the Chinese people or their leader Xi Jinping who, it seems, is as much a captive of his party as any ideologue is. In many ways it seems he is a typical bureaucrat leader so no wonder he is reluctant to deal with the unfinished business of Tibet, Hong Kong and Tiananmen Square.
I am writing this to mark the 82nd birthday of my great friend His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet this week. I spent an hour in private conversation with him in Dharamshala just a couple of weeks ago. Ironically, we spent most of the time talking about love. How he copes is a triumph of his religion. He says to me “Bill, you learn the most about life and yourself from those who make your life difficult”. Well, he and his people know what difficulty is. I met with many of his people who had trekked all across the Himalayas, many bringing children to give them an education denied in China. I am truly humbled at what I saw and what I learnt.
Thousands of years ago the Babylonians overran the Hebrew peoples and drove them into exile. Because of that they freed a religion from its geographic limitations and allowed it to evolve into what is Christianity today. In attempting to destroy a people and their religion these Babylonian barbarians ultimately enabled a tremendous gift to be given the world in the form of Jesus.
Many, many people had to die excruciating deaths for that to happen but few would argue that gift was not, when everything is taken into account, a blessing. I am absolutely certain that long, long after the Chinese empire of today has crumbled into dust, the religion of the Dalai Lama will be as strong as ever. Happy Birthday, your Holiness.
By Bill Crews
Sydney Morning Herald
Bill Crews is chief executive and founder of The Exodus Foundation and minister of Ashfield Uniting Church.
This article only reflects the views of the contributor/author.