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The Guardian view on the Dalai Lama: dont squeeze him out | Ed...

The Guardian view on the Dalai Lama: dont

squeeze him out
Chinese diplomatic pressure is gradually moving the Tibetan leader away from the
world stage. It should be resisted

The Dalai Lama was not invited to the great interfaith meeting in Assisi. Photograph: Kristy Sparow/Getty

Sunday 2 October 2016 20.05BST

piritual leaders pray for peace is not a headline to set the pulses racing. It is
news only when they pray for war. Even that, unfortunately, is common
enough to raise little attention these days. But something happened last week,
almost entirely neglected by the media, which wasremarkable and sinister.
The Dalai Lamadid not pray for peace at the great interfaith meeting in Assisi, where
world spiritual leaders, invited by the pope, do gather to pray and witness for peace.
There were representatives of almost every other faith whose followers are engaged in
violence: Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Japanese Buddhists, Orthodox Christians even the
archbishop of Canterbury; but the Dalai Lamawas not invited. He had to content himself
with a small meeting in an obscure Polish town at which all present pledged themselves
to peace.

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The Guardian view on the Dalai Lama: dont squeeze him out | Ed...

The Dalai Lama had been present at the rst of the big Assisi meetings, in 1986, which
was then hugely controversial among religious conservatives, for it demonstrated that
the Catholic church, under John Paul II, was serious in its eorts to acknowledge the
good faith of other religions. But this time he was not invited and it seems clear that this
was the result of Chinese pressure. Pope Francis most recently refused to see the Dalai
Lama in 2014, but he has been persona non grata at the Vatican for many years now.
Getting other governments to snub the Dalai Lama has been an occupation of Chinese
diplomats for the last nine years or so, ever since George W Bush awarded him the
Congressional Medal of Honor. That public recognition of the Tibetan spiritual leader
seems to have stung the Chinese state into a furious and long-lasting reaction. The
public rhetoric had always been angry, but now it was matched by private pressure.
Government after government has quietly cancelled meetings with him. It is in the
interest of no side of these squalid little transactions to publicise them: the host
countries look weak and unprincipled, the Chinese spiteful and bullying, and the
Tibetans just look powerless. In all cases, this appearance corresponds to reality.

So, ocially, there are hardly any invitations not made. The veil only lifts occasionally.
In 2011, the South African government excluded him from Archbishop Desmond Tutus
80th birthday celebrations while the British government had to do some spectacular
grovelling after he visited twice and met David Cameron in 2012. This corresponds very
badly with the view of the western general public, which is that the Dalai Lama is one of
the most signicant and benevolent religious leaders in the world today, a man who
genuinely stands for a spirituality of peace and mutual understanding.

There is something extremely distasteful in these displays of realpolitik. The Chinese

government is engaged in a long-term power struggle with the Vatican over who should
have the right to choose bishops: an old story from European medieval history now
played out with an Asian power. There are separate ocial and underground churches.
The Vatican clearly calculates that the prize of a thriving unied church in the
potentially huge growth market of China (where most Christianity now is Protestant) is
worth a few snubs to a man who is, after all, the leader of a rival religion. But this policy
diminishes the moral authority of both parties.

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Dalai Lama/Opinion

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The Guardian view on the Dalai Lama: dont squeeze him out | Ed...

China/Asia Pacic/Religion/editorials

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