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Tibetan Appeal at the International Consultative Conference on School, Education in Relation With the Freedom of Religion and Belief, Tolerance and Non-Discrimination

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 01/11/28; November 28, 2001.]

23 - 25 November 2001
Madrid, Spain

As Tibetan Buddhists, we believe that at the root of our suffering, lies lack of understanding, or ignorance, about human nature, indeed, about the true nature of all living beings. Thus, in our view, the question of intolerance, discrimination and oppression of some human beings by others, is caused by this lack of understanding and knowledge. The recognition and understanding that all human beings are, in essence, the same, despite our differences in culture, religion and even race, lies at the center of a better relationship between individuals and peoples. Education of children and young people is the best tool we have to instil this understanding among this and future generations.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has stated "humanity is rich because of its diversity. Each civilization, culture and spiritual tradition has contributed in its own way to our human needs, to our knowledge and wisdom and to our well-being, and many of them continue to do so today. I believe we can learn a great deal from each other's cultures and spiritual traditions, not necessarily in order that we can adopt them ourselves, but because to do so increases our opportunities for mutual respect."

We are all well aware of the leading role of the United Nations in the adoption of resolutions, declarations and treaties to promote education, tolerance and the freedom of religion. This conference is yet another step in reaffirming these commitments. But it is not only governments that must play their role in implementing these objectives. Educational institutions, religious leaders and all communities have a responsibility to act in this regard.

There are many situations where the implementation of the objectives set out here and in many UN documents cannot be realised because of the political situation. This is especially the case where a people are living under foreign occupation, colonialism and alien domination.

In Tibet children are indoctrinated with the ideology of communism that is alien to them and are encouraged to distance themselves from their religious, cultural and national identity. For more than four decades, Tibetan children have had no real opportunity to be educated about their religion, culture and history. Neither have they been taught compassion, tolerance and understanding for other cultures, religions and ways of life. Instead, they have been forced to get an education that serves only the political objectives of the People's Republic of China. Our children are being taught to be atheist when their parents and grandparents were known to be among the most religious peoples on earth. The object of China's education policy in Tibet was clearly stated by Chen Kuiyuan in 1994 (who was then the Communist Party Secretary in the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region). He said, in a public speech: "The success of our education does not lie in the number of diplomas issued. It lies, in the final analysis, in whether our graduating students are opposed to or turn their hearts to the Dalai Clique and in whether they are loyal to or do not care about our great Motherland and the great socialist cause."

We appeal to this conference to address the issue of school education in relation to freedom of religion and belief, tolerance and non-discrimination without double standards. In particular, we ask that equal attention be paid to the question of freedom of religion, tolerance and non-discrimination and school education of children living under foreign occupation, colonialism and Alien domination. Their situation should be of particular concern. How can the world bring about a more tolerant society if certain governments are allowed to suppress a people's religion, cultural and national identity? We believe that this is an important issue, which should be addressed by this conference and reflected in the final document.

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