BRUSSELS: His Holiness the Dalai Lama graced the inauguration of the seventh International Conference of Tibet Support Groups at Saint-Louis University, Brussels, on Thursday, 8 September 2016.
His Holiness was welcomed at the entrance of the University by Mr Thomas Mann, President of the Tibet Interest Group in the European Parliament, Thomas Mann, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay and Speaker Khenpo Sonam Tenphel of the Tibetan Parliament.
Entering the hall His Holiness gradually made his way along the front row, shaking hands and waving to many old friends. Encountering blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng he took off his glasses and invited him to feel his face by way of greeting.
The inaugural ceremony of the conference began with welcome remarks by Moderator Tsering Jhampa of ICT Europe. She mentioned that Brussels was a fitting location for such a meeting since, in the face of China’s economic expansion, it is important for bodies like the European Union to develop appropriately strong policies.
First speaker, Thomas Mann, welcomed his fellow guests and remarked that this 7th TSG Conference provided an opportunity to send a message to China. He said the European Parliament and the European community stand by their Tibetan friends.
Mr Thomas Mann was followed by Mr Henri Malosse, former President of the European Economic and Social Committee, who told the gathering that coming from Corsica he was personally familiar with a people’s struggle to preserve their identity. He recalled coming to Dharamsala to address the 10 March Tibetan Uprising Day in 2014, much to the local Chinese Ambassador’s irritation. He encouraged the pursuit of dialogue to achieve progress, saying:
“We must never forget to mention human rights, civil rights and political freedom for everyone. When the EU is tough on small countries about these issues, why does it go easy on China? The Tibet issue affects us all because our response to it reflects our values.”
Cristian Preda, Vice Chair of the Human Rights sub-Committee and Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, assured the meeting of the widespread support for the Tibetan issue in the European Parliament. He suggested that despite China’s having rejected the Middle Way Approach, the need to enter into dialogue is ever more urgent.
Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay began by acknowledging his sense of honour to be in the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is a beacon of hope regarded by the Tibetan people as the life and soul of Tibet. On behalf of the Central Tibetan Administration, (CTA) he thanked everyone participating in the conference, suggesting that what was required was the wisdom of elders and the enthusiasm of youth. With those, he asserted, “We will succeed. We will fulfil the aspirations of Tibetans in Tibet.” He noted that because the next two years will see potentially great changes in China it would be crucial to enter into dialogue to resolve the issue of Tibet.
Alluding to the grim reality that Tibetans are still repressed and Tibet is still occupied, a situation so desperate that three nuns have recently committed suicide and 144 other Tibetans in recent years have self-immolated, he expressed his determination to find a peaceful solution and make the Middle Way Approach a success. He expressed confidence that there will be a return to Tibet, to the Jokhang, Ramoche and the Kalachakra ground before the Potala.
Tsering Jhampa thanked the Sikyong for his uplifting speech and assured him, “We will make a difference.” She invited Jan Peumanns, Speaker of the Flemish Parliament to address the gathering. He resolved to come up with fresh ideas to fulfil the cause by peaceful means. He remarked that while he and his fellow countrymen and women live on a different continent and look different from Tibetans, what brings them all together is, “We are all human beings.”
Not previously scheduled to speak, Richard Gere called on the conference to take the opportunity to think again, to be visionary, not to feel beaten down by increasing Chinese economic power, but to view it as part of a world of opportunity. “We have to try to create the world we want our children to live in,” he said, “taking His Holiness’s sense of fairness and justice as a guide. We have to see the Chinese people as brothers and sisters. We need to look ahead to a brighter future.”
Stating that what keeps many Tibet Supporters going is the inspiration they derive from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as well as the Tibetan people in Tibet, Tsering Jhampa invited His Holiness to speak.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in his keynote address, began:
“Since we are all human beings, I always prefer to talk informally. I’m a Tibetan and therefore one of the 7 billion human beings alive today. If we look back at the last century there was a huge amount of killing and violence because people thought that the use of force was the way to solve problems. In the interdependent world in which we find ourselves, this is completely out of date. The essence of Tibetan Buddhist culture is peace, non-violence and compassion—what the whole world needs. I believe all 7 billion human beings have a responsibility to make an effort to create a more compassionate world. We won’t see a result next year or even in the next decade, but if we start now we may see positive change within this century.
“I do whatever I can on the basis of Shantideva’s advice that if a problem can be solved we should act to do so, but if it can’t be solved, worrying about it is of no use. Consequently my mind is calm.
“Scientific findings that basic human nature is compassionate is a source of hope. Remembering that we are all equally human beings, we have to think of the welfare of all.”
His Holiness called on his friends and supporters of Tibet to take a broader view; to work to emulate his commitments to promote human happiness and encourage inter-religious harmony. In addition, he described himself as Tibetan and someone the Tibetan people trust. He described being interested in democracy since childhood and after failing to implement reforms in Tibet, working to establish it in exile. The result was that with an elected leadership he felt able to semi-retire in 2001 and retire completely in 2011. What’s more he willingly put an end to the Dalai Lamas taking a political role in the future.
He said his retirement allowed him to work for the preservation of Tibetan culture and language. One of the ways of doing this has been engaging in dialogue with modern scientists. Many of them are interested in learning from Tibetan experience and understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions.
“What’s important is to understand how disturbing emotions like anger, fear and suspicion can be. They lead to violence. Prayer won’t help, but understanding, developing and applying compassion, unbiased and free of attachment, can.”
His Holiness also touched on the importance of proper ecology on the Tibetan plateau for Tibetans, Chinese and the world at large. With regard to Tibet, he said there is a problem. It’s not good for Tibetans, but it is also not good for Chinese. It is something that must be resolved. He mentioned his belief in truth, that in the short term the power of the gun may seem stronger, but in the long term it is the truth that endures. Finally, he noted that while leaders and governments come and go, the people as a whole remain, so growing contacts and sympathy among the Chinese people are significant.
The meeting ended with Marc Liegeois, President Les Amis du Tibet, Belgium, offering a vote of thanks. Continuing to interact with people as he left the hall, His Holiness returned to his hotel.
At least 250 delegates from over 50 countries including 29 Chinese participants and 103 European participants are currently participating in the three-day conference.
The five decades old Tibetan struggle led by His Holiness the Dalai Lama generated intense and active interest for Tibet from people of all walks of life internationally since 1959. As a result, numerous Tibet Support Groups (TSGs) have been formed around the world, giving a major fillip to the international Tibet support movement. These support groups, formed voluntarily and working in close cooperation with the Tibetan people but independent of CTA, have helped in creating increased awareness about the situation in Tibet and generating an impressive level of world-wide support for Tibet.
– sourced from dalailama.com –