Tibetan Monks Sealed in Sichuan Monastery Request Permission to Pray for Chinese Quake Victims

by Rebecca Novick, Huffington Post, May 19, 2008

Dharamsala, India -- Tsering, a monk living in exile in Dharamsala, India, received a static-filled call from Tibet at 10:30 at night on May 15th. On the other end was a monk from Kirti Monastery in Sichuan, the province where China's devastating earthquake took tens of thousands of lives.

The monk told Tsering that the monastic community of Kirti had requested that the Chinese authorities to allow them to perform prayers for the Chinese people who had suffered in the disaster.

Since March 6th, Kirti monastery has been surrounded by large numbers of Chinese security forces. The local Tibetan community has not been allowed access after large public demonstrations -- in which thousands of the monks participated -- resulting in mass arrests. For a few days, Kirti became a temporary morgue for fifteen Tibetans who eye witnesses claim were shot and killed by Chinese police while protesting non-violently. Scores of other protesters were reported to have been killed in the ensuing crackdown.

Two weeks later, after photographs of those killed in the protests were leaked to the outside world, the People's Armed Police and Public Security Bureau officials stormed the monastery and searched the rooms. During the raid, they defaced pictures of the Dalai Lama -- an unimaginable offense to Tibetan monks.

It was in this atmosphere that the monks of Kirti made their quiet request to do prayers for the Chinese quake victims. Since March, the monks of Kirti have not been allowed to conduct their usual Buddhist rituals, but on May 15th, they received special permission to make an exception. The monks began the day with a prayer offering ceremony and collected cash donations from among their members. They also wrote letters of condolences to the bereaved families.

The monks of Kirti monastery, located in Ngapa county in Amdo, also conveyed the following message to the Chinese people:

As monks of a Buddhist Monastery, we unwaveringly follow the nonviolent path shown by Buddha and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We practice the Buddhist teachings of loving compassion to all sentient beings. We are all one human family. Therefore the monks of Kirti monastery offer their prayers to the Chinese victims of this disaster.

We want our Chinese brothers and sisters to know that we Tibetans are not against them as the Government has tried to claim through the state run television after the March 14 unrest in Lhasa. This has been creating a rift and hostility between Tibetans and Chinese. The monks from Kirti monastery confidently represent the Tibetans by clarifying that the Tibetans are against the unjust policies of the People's Republic of China and not against the Chinese people themselves.

We wish to express to the Chinese people that we have never harbored any anger towards them. Our only wish is to find a solution to the Tibet issue. Tibetans and Chinese have a deep history of cultural relationships, and it's a fact that Tibetans and Chinese have to live side by side. Therefore, we urge the Chinese people to join us to try to find a solution that will allow us to remain friends rather than enemies.

That solution may presently seem out of reach, but its sentiments like these that could bring it closer.

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