Date: 03/17/05 13:04:07
Subject: [CASonline] Tibet and some other points -
Dalai Lama yields ground on Tibet self-rule (SCMP)
South China Morning Post
March 14, 2005
We will accept China's authority if it preserves our culture, he says
The Dalai Lama has extended an olive branch to Beijing in a bid to resolve the decades-old
political conflict over Tibetan independence.
The exiled spiritual leader appears to have given up any demand for Tibetan self-governance and is
willing to accept Chinese rule so long as Tibet's culture, spirituality and environment are
In an interview published exclusively in the South China Morning Post today, the Dalai Lama
indicates he is relinquishing his half-a-century struggle for Tibet's sovereignty in order to
realise what he calls "broader interest" to allow his people to savour the success of China's
rapid economic growth and accomplishments.
"We want modernisation. So for our own interest, we are willing to be part of the People's
Republic of China, to have the PRC govern and guarantee to preserve our Tibetan culture,
spirituality and our environment," he said.
The Dalai Lama said that by dropping the sovereignty claim for Tibet, his people would be able to
benefit from China's economic achievements. This was in stark contrast to his previous stand, that
Tibet should be a self-governing domestic and political entity under a type of "one country, two
"This is the message I wish to deliver to China," he said. "I am not in favour of separation.
Tibet is a part of the People's Republic of China. It is an autonomous region of the People's
Republic of China. Tibetan culture and Buddhism are part of Chinese culture."
The Dalai Lama's clear reference to the Chinese government, and Tibet being one of its autonomous
regions, was tantamount to recognition of the Chinese Communist Party's rule and acceptance of
Tibet's current status. His comments indicate he now seeks autonomy only on religious and cultural
matters and not political, economic or diplomatic affairs.
The 69-year-old spiritual leader expressed hope that Tibet could help develop China's "internal
values" in the spiritual field through Buddhism, while the central government could expand
"external values" through materialistic development such as economic and political governance. He
denied his apparent climbdown came out of desperation, and stressed that "it comes out of broader
He pointed to Europe as an example of such broader interest. "In the European Union, each
[country] carries self-interest but what is more important is common interest. It is more
important than individual sovereignty. Currency is the most potent symbol of individual
sovereignty, but they are willing to give it up to dissolve into the common interest."
However, the Dalai Lama's change of heart has raised concerns of a growing rift between the
moderates and the radicals within the government-in-exile, based in Dharamsala in northern India.
The Chinese government has insisted that the Dalai Lama, who fled in 1959 after a failed uprising
against Beijing, must accept that Tibet is an integral part of China and abandon his sovereignty
fight. In recent years, the Dalai Lama has been increasingly accommodating in his political
maneuverings, pursuing a "middle way" that would ensure autonomy rather than independence and
leave China in control of Tibet's foreign policy.
Meanwhile, in an unprecedented interview with Post columnist Laurence Brahm, the
Beijing-recognised 11th Panchen Lama sent a message of harmony, calling on Tibetans overseas to
contribute to their homeland's economic development.
The teenage religious leader, who is rarely seen in public, said: "I wish Tibetan people here and
living abroad to love their country and home town, and put their efforts into economic development
to raise living standards and development in their homeland."
Both lamas were disillusioned with developments in the west, pointing out the limitations
materialism has in satisfying humanity, and the need for more spirituality.
The calls by both religious leaders could serve to create a rare window of opportunity for true
dialogue to take place and speed up negotiations to pave the way for the homecoming of exiled
Tibetans in the near future, analysts believe.
China asks Dalai to acknowledge its sovereignty over Tibet (PTI)
BEIJING, MAR 15 (PTI): Refusing to budge from its hardline stance towards the Dalai Lama, China
today reminded him of its pre-conditions for talks, which included "genuine" renunciation of his
quest for "Tibet independence" and a public acknowledgement that the remote Himalayan region was
an "inseparable" part of the Communist nation.
"We have taken note of his remarks. More importantly we pay attention to his deeds", Foreign
Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters here when asked to comment on the Dalai Lama's
latest conciliatory statements in which he vowed not to seek the independence of Tibet from China.
"We demand the Dalai Lama to fully and objectively judge the facts and genuinely abandon the
advocacy of 'Tibet independence', give up his various splittist activities, recognise Tibet as an
inseparable part of China, Taiwan as an inseparable part of China and recognise the People's
Republic of China as the sole legal government representing the whole of China," Liu said,
restating Beijing's stance on resumption of talks with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.
"I believe our policy towards the Dalai Lama has been consistent and clear," the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the spokesman also rejected the description of the Tibetans, who visited Beijing and
other parts of China in 2003, as the Dalai Lama's envoys.
"They are not envoys (of the Dalai Lama). Some Tibetan compatriots in their private capacity
visited China to meet with their family, friends and Tibet. They had consultations with competent
departments of the Chinese government", Liu said, adding that "for this year's arrangements (for
similar consultations), I don't have any information.
From Shian and Qisen:
March 11, 2005
WHAT'S in a bag of joss sticks?
Too much, it seems.
While shopping for Chinese New Year groceries this year, my mother bought some incense. It's customary, she said, to burn offerings to protect the family in the coming year.
The bag was passed to my younger brother. He refused to touch it.
He had, you see, converted to Christianity two years ago, and is now an active member in a charismatic church. He believes joss sticks and paper money are pagan. Carrying the bag would be wrong.
My family is agnostic. Burning incense is reserved for Chinese New Year, Qing Ming Festival and our grandparents' death anniversaries. To us, it is not so much a religious ritual as it is a cultural custom.
But already there is some uneasiness within my family. What more for families who are Buddhist or Taoist - the faiths of a majority of pre-'65 Singaporeans? This is an inter-generational tableau playing out in many families.
As church leaders tell me, tensions do arise when they win over young converts. Strain often arises in a family when a member converts to another religion, no matter which.
But because Christianity is fast gaining popularity among the post-'65 Chinese, it has become the religion that often comes up against the traditional faiths of their parents.
The proportion of Christians among the Chinese increased from 2.4 per cent in 1921 to 10.6 per cent in 1980. By 2000, 17 per cent were Christians, overtaking Taoists as the second largest group after the Buddhists.
In contrast, Malays and Indians have largely stayed with their traditional faiths. It is also rarer that a Chinese converts to Islam or Hinduism.
So what accounts for the growing affinity for Christianity among younger Chinese?
First, the post-'65ers are, by and large, a better-educated generation than their parents. Socialised into an English-stream system, they tend to be attracted to Christianity, perceived as a modern religion. They view their parents' faiths as superstitious and illogical, as sociologists Eddie Kuo and Tong Chee Kiong noted in a 1990 Census monograph.
Second, as the monograph notes, the evangelical Christian movement has been 'particularly active since the early 1980s'. Today, half of the Christians are converts, compared to the 90 per cent of Buddhists, Muslims and others born into their respective faiths.
This has led to what Prof Kuo calls 'an inherent tension' in families. He told me in an interview: 'In Singapore, things change so fast there is no time to adjust. In other countries, a change in religion may take place over a few generations so there is a buffer zone. Families here are forced to confront the change overnight.'
And so, difficulties arise. For instance, Taoist parents may unthinkingly light joss sticks, whose incense wafts into their children's room.
I know of an eldest son who refused to hold the joss sticks at his Buddhist father's funeral. His family is not speaking to him.
Parents are hurt when children believe that they - non-Christian believers - are destined for hell.
It doesn't help when some parents take the hardline route, and ban their children from church. One man, now a pastor, was thrown out of his home.
As a society, Singapore has done a wonderful job in maintaining harmony among the diverse religions.
The Government is insistent on the cultivation of a common space, while the religious groups themselves are assiduous in avoiding stepping on one another's toes.
But it's different at home, behind closed doors. The emotional bonds between loved ones tear down the walls of politically correct niceties. Harsh words are said, camps are drawn.
Some churches recognise this potential conflict zone. So City Harvest Church, for example, makes its members who are aged below 21 get a parental consent form signed before they can attend church.
But what happens if religion itself is the source of disharmony between family members?
There is no easy answer, and it probably can never be resolved. The family has to work out some mechanism to cope with the differences so they will never be brought to boiling point.
Pastor Lawrence Lim of New Creation Church said: 'We counsel the kids to be gracious, educate their parents so they understand Christianity. Then, the misunderstanding will be lessened.'
Communication - and respect - has to go both ways. As a friend, whose mother is a Buddhist, said: 'I have heart-to-heart talks with my mum about our religions.'
And compromise. Be open. A Catholic friend has no qualms holding joss sticks at funerals. 'It's a sign of respect for them. God understands.'
Indeed. For what is a bag of joss sticks, except for the meaning that you invest in it?
Religion Made Me Do It
Brown Daily Herald, September 26, 2003
Brown University, Box 2538, Providence, RI, 02906
(Fax: 401-351-9297 ) (E-Mail: Mailer on their web page ) (
RELIGION MADE ME DO IT
By Brian Rainey
There has been an important public discussion over religion in the
pages of The Herald this week. The recent debate over the Vatican's
anti-gay theology raises issues far beyond the topic of human
sexuality. It raises important and fundamental questions about
religion's relationship to society and culture. In fact, it raises
questions about the nature of religion itself.
The recent debate centers on the argument that the Vatican's
recent document should not be "dismissed as bigotry" simply because it
implied that homosexuality was "evil" and argued that gay and lesbian
families would do "violence" to children. The Vatican isn't bigoted;
it's simply being loyal to its tradition. This contention is not
unique to apologists of the Vatican. Protestants use the same kind of
rhetoric when they appeal to what the Bible "clearly says" about the
topic. They're not bigots; they're just following "clear" biblical
teaching. Similarly, anti-gay Jews and Muslims defend their positions
by claiming that they are innocently reading what the Torah and Qu'ran
"clearly say" about homosexuality.
These kinds of "religion-made-me-do-it" arguments assume that
theology exists in a vacuum and is untouched by popular prejudices,
politics or society. People make these arguments as if there were not
a mountain of historical examples showing that the prejudices and
assumptions of our society will always play an intrinsic role in
hermeneutics and interpretation.
This becomes quite obvious when looking at the issue of slavery.
It is often assumed that American Christians were evenly divided over
slavery. The truth is that major dissent over slavery did not happen
until it had been an institution for centuries. Until the late 18th
century, white Christians in the U.S. almost universally accepted
slavery. Not even Quakers opposed slavery en masse until after the
American Revolution. Even after the Revolution, the vast majority of
Christians supported slavery until the abolitionist movement of the
1830s. Of course, there were always dissenters, but anti-slavery
positions were on the fringe and marginalized.
Katie Geneva Cannon, a theologian specializing in African-American
biblical interpretation, notes that until the abolitionist movement of
the 1830s, "the white church evaded responsibility and surrendered
prerogatives to slavocracy. For most of the years that chattel slavery
existed, the mainline Protestant churches never legislated against
slavery, seldom disciplined slaveholders and most gently apologized
for the 'peculiar institution.'"
Lester Scherer recounts the sorry state of Christianity in his
book, Slavery and the Churches in Early America 1619-1819 (Eerdmans,
1975): "Like Hebrew, Greek, Roman and Muslim civilizations, Christian
society also failed to produce any tradition of dissent in the matter
of slavery. This absence of an 'abolitionist' tradition made it hard
for persons of a later time to find Christian language for expressing
a radical anti-slavery position." And indeed, major church figures
like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, several church councils
(particularly Gangra and Toledo), countless papal edicts, and the
Bible itself supported slavery. The Christian tradition was so
pro-slavery that abolitionists had to practically construct
anti-slavery theology from whole cloth!
But somehow Christians did construct anti-slavery theology despite
overwhelming odds. So how did that which was "obvious" and "clear" to
almost all Christians before, suddenly become less obvious and clear?
Did some Christians wake up one morning and suddenly decide that two
centuries of Christian doctrine was wrong? Did they just open their
Bibles one day and determine that almost all of their Christian peers
The answer lies in the social situation of the United States.
Towards the latter part of the 18th century, the institution of
slavery was dying out, which created an environment more favorable for
abolitionism. So it is at this time that abolitionist ideas became
more prevalent - though certainly not popular. In the 1830s, however,
the invention of the cotton gin made slavery profitable again and
slavery expanded. This proliferation of slavery exacerbated the
massive tensions between northern capitalism and the southern
slaveocracy, which led to major political conflict. As people took
sides in this political conflict, ideology became extremely important.
Thus religion, which is such an important part of American life, was
an ideological weapon in a political battle between north and south.
Clearly, Christian theology changes with the social climate. When
slavery was in its heyday from the 17th to the early 19th century,
Christianity was overwhelmingly supportive of the institution and
Christian hermeneutical strategies and interpretations supported the
prevailing sentiments. Slavery was such a given that its harmony with
natural law and God's design was "obvious." When that sentiment
changed due to political developments, Christian interpretations
changed as well. Suddenly, the Bible and church tradition were not so
Now that slavery has been relegated to the dustbin of history and
is seen as "intrinsically evil" (as John Paul II put it, contradicting
Church doctrine which universally held that slavery, in and of itself,
was not wrong), these pro-slavery passages and edicts are ignored or
reinterpreted - often in creative ways that make no sense of the
As a result, no one can hide behind Bibles, Talmuds or Qu'rans to
say, "religion-made-me-do-it." Theology is a political act. Theology
takes sides in ideological conflicts. It both reflects and reinforces
popular prejudices. Theology, hermeneutics and interpretations of
tradition are not self-contained, autonomous phenomena; and there is
no such thing as "just" engaging tradition or a sacred text.