Steward of Justice & Peace
Libertà Religiosa e diritto all’autodeterminazione
The ninth child born to a farming family in the Chinese border region of Amdo in 1935, two-year-old Lhamo Thondup was recognized by Tibetan monks as the fourteenth reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, considered a manifestation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Renamed Tenzin Gyatso, he was brought to Lhasa to begin a sixteen-year education in metaphysical and religious texts to prepare him for his role as spiritual leader. The Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1949, and its aftermath, introduced brutal repressions in which thousands of Tibetans were executed in prisons or starved to death in prison camps, and hundreds of monasteries, temples, and other cultural and historic buildings were pillaged and demolished. In their effort to eradicate Tibetan culture and identity, the Chinese forced Tibetans to dress like Chinese, to profess atheism, to burn books, and to condemn, humiliate, and kill their elders and teachers. His life in jeopardy, the Dalai Lama fled into exile in northern India along with 80,000 Tibetans in 1959; he has never returned. Meanwhile, new waves of repression erupted in the 1960s and 1980s that continue in the present. To date, the Chinese government has murdered, massacred, tortured, or starved to death over one million Tibetans: one-fifth of the population. In the face of this state oppression, where do Tibetans gather strength to continue the struggle? His Holiness the Dalai Lama inspires Tibetans to embrace their beliefs and hold fast to their dreams. He has demanded that we think of those who have stolen his land and massacred his people, not as murderers and thieves, but as human beings deserving of forgiveness and compassion. Since 1959, His Holiness has received over 84 awards, honorary doctorates, and other prizes, in recognition of his lifelong message of peace, non-violence, inter-religious understanding, universal responsibility and compassion, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. His Holiness has also authored more than 72 books and describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk.
Free Expression, Free Elections, and Democratic Reforms
Rigoberta Menchú Tum is a heroine to Maya Indians in Guatemala and indigenous peoples throughout the world. Born into an impoverished family in 1959, the daughter of an active member of the CUC (Committee of Campesinos [Agricultural Workers]), she joined the union in 1979, despite the fact that several members of her family had been persecuted for their membership. In the early 1980s, the Guatemalan military launched a “scorched earth campaign,” burning more than four hundred Mayan villages to the ground, massacring hundreds of children, women, and the infirm; and brutally torturing and murdering anyone suspected of dissenting from the policy of repression. The military killed up to two hundred thousand people, mostly Mayan Indians, and forced one million people into exile. Menchú’s mother and brother were kidnapped and killed, and her father burned alive. While the Guatemalan army marched against its people, the rest of the world remained almost completely silent.