Silencing the Dalai Lama?

Robert V. Taylor

Robert V. Taylor

The attempt to silence His Holiness the Dalai Lama is an exercise in futility akin to trying to block the flow of eternal spiritual truths. Yet this is what the government of South Africa is trying to do. Their refusal to grant him a visa to give a lecture in Cape Town in honor of his friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s eightieth birthday is ironic at best and, at worst,  hostile to free speech and religion.

     These two iconic human beings are honored in much of the world for their willingness to speak truth to power out of the spirituality of their respective Buddhist and Christian traditions. Tutu’s fearless defense of the voiceless and the inclusion of all people is an expression of the abundantly generous love of the God he believes in. The Dalai Lama’s insistence on the inter-connectedness of all beings arises from his Buddhist tradition.  He says that his religion is one of kindness. These two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates share a common spiritual and pragmatic insistence on the power of forgiveness over retribution.

     There is nothing kind, inclusive or generous about the obfuscating responses of the South African government as they dither about whether to succumb to China’s pressure to keep the Dalai Lama out of South Africa.

     In 2009 the Dalai Lama was denied a visa to give a lecture in South Africa with News24 reporting that the government admitted its move was made “in order not to jeopardize ties with China.”  The Sunday Independent reported that the South African Embassy in New Delhi had not received the Dalai Lama’s visa application. On August 22, 2011 the Ministry of Home Affairs spokesman was quoted by Phayul News saying, “The Dalai Lama’s visa issue is not only administrative but political and diplomatic in nature.” In others words the South African government is considering colluding with China in an attempt to silence His Holiness’ voice in South Africa.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

    The irony lies in the history of apartheid giving way to a robust democracy in 1994. Many members of the current government were silenced by the apartheid regime under which freedom of expression and association was unknown. It was Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s voice against apartheid that could not be silenced at home or on the global stage. Calling for the end of apartheid and for justice he insisted that the human family is made not for separateness but for togetherness. He calls it Ubuntu – we are only human beings in the context of others human beings.  

     The long fought for freedom of expression, association and democracy in South Africa is called into question by not granting a visa to His Holiness to deliver the inaugural Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture in honor of his good friends eightieth birthday on October 7.

     Driven by the spirituality of their respective traditions Tutu and the Dalai Lama tirelessly work for freedom, reconciliation and the inclusion of all. In addition to the Tutu invitation the Durban based Gandhi Development Trust intends to honor His Holiness in South Africa with the 9th Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace.

Robert V. Taylor, His Holiness the Dalai Lama & Archbishop Tutu

Dumisa Ntsebeza, Chair of the Desmond Tutu Peace Center in South Africa, expressed a generous hope saying, “Althoguh uncertainty over the visa has proved challenging…the Peace Center is confident the visa will be granted.”

     Archbishop Tutu and The Dalai Lama will not be silenced by any government. The question is why, given the remarkable history of South Africa’s journey, it would even consider trying to keep the Dalai Lama’s voice out of the county?

      It is a futile flourish that the old apartheid government would have been proud of.  Perhaps it is the South African government that is need of reconciliation – the reconciling of a country’s liberation and constitution with a visa that will welcome one of the great religious and human rights crusaders to its country. What is to be feared from the voices of these two Nobel Laureates celebrating their voices and those of humanity in the quest for spiritual and human freedom?

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6 Comments

  1. Belinda Lightheart

    It is sad that the South African government chooses to try to keep the Dalai Lama from speaking at the celebration of the 80th birthday of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. However, no government can keep these two amazing men from knowing and honoring the Truth of who they have come here to be in this world.
    Ininite blessings of love and light. -Belinda Lightheart

  2. Belinda Lightheart

    It is sad that the South African government chooses to try to keep the Dalai Lama from speaking at the celebration of the 80th birthday of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. However, no government can keep these two amazing men from knowing and honoring the Truth of who they have come here to be in this world.
    Infinite blessings of love and light. -Belinda Lightheart

  3. Br Graham-Michoel

    How silly! And their own stupidy is that by doing this they, ( the SA Government ), adds fuel to the fire of. But the sadness is is also seemingly not being able to reflect on their own recent history. All those years in prison failed to silence Nelson Mandalah, but add fuel to the fire of love.

  4. Despite claiming that we are a “sovereign nation” the tardiness in issuing the visa and a previous refusal to the Dalai Lama in response to pressure from China, undermines our hard-fought independence as a nation. Many now in government seem to have short memories since the Dalai Lama was able to visit S.Africa a few years ago and I personally heard him speak in our City Hall. What has changed ? Two promoters for peace, Archbishop Desmond and the Dalai Lama are the voices we in Africa need to hear and as the Dalai Lama said on his last visit to Cape Town, ” peace begins in me “.

  5. As a South African my head hangs in shame for our government having lost its moral compass and bowing to Chinese pressure. The Dalai Lama, like Desmond Tutu, are moral giants in our world and can contribute the wisdom which our society is desperately yearning for.

  6. The fact that this visa has not been granted by South Africa is a huge cause for concern, but at least this time there is the possibility that it will be granted. So perhaps we should all wait until there is a clear yes or no. If it is not granted, we should encourage all South Africans to write the word CHINA on their next ballot paper as this is who we are then effectively voting for…

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