Monday, March 30, 2009

SAFCEI statement on the Dalai Lama affair

Dalai Lama

The peace conference with three Nobel Peace Laureates was ostensibly being held “to focus on issues of peace and harmony and the role soccer has played in achieving this”.

We in South Africa should know, as well as any in the world, that there can be no peace without justice. We had to get rid of the injustices of Apartheid before we could begin to live in peace with one another.

The Tibetan’s have known no peace since China marched in on them 50 years ago.

We in the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) know that the pursuit of peace is like a three legged stool. If one leg is too short or missing, it cannot stand. The leg of peace requires one leg for democracy with human rights and another leg for eco-justice (economic and ecological justice). In brief, only with democracy and eco-justice will we find peace.

We in SAFCEI have also discovered that when we show respect for the views and beliefs other faiths and cultures, we get on really well. We have far more that unites us than divides us. With Hindus, Buddhists, Baha’i, Muslims, Jews, African traditional religions as well as Christians on our management board, we feel we are an example to the world as we so enjoy our meetings with each other. We know the value of meeting other faiths. None of us have been compromised in our faith.

The banning of the Dalai Lama therefore comes as a rude shock. Not only do we need the presence of spiritual leaders of his standing, we also need the assurance that our government is in pursuit of democratic human rights and economic justice. Or do we see they are in support of a new era of the pillaging of Africa, which China is undertaking with ruthless success.

To add insult to injury, when one cabinet minister has the courage to speak out, she is condemned and vilified. We need to know whether the refusal of the Dalai Lama’s visa was a cabinet decision or a decision of the Department of Foreign Affairs. We also need to know whether our government is that of a military organisation requiring blind obedience as part of its discipline or whether it is a democratic organization encouraging the freedom to think.

After years of refusing to speak the truth to Aids, Barbara Hogan spoke the truth when appointed as Minister of Health and we rejoiced. Now she is the one who spoke the truth regarding the Dalai Lama and the government can’t face the truth. Wither democracy?

We are facing testing times with the financial crisis and - more serious – growing environmental crises, notably with climate change. We will find no peace in our land or in the world if we don’t speak the truth regarding human rights and equitable sharing of the resources of the world. South Africa once inspired the world in its pursuit of justice. The best thing our government can do is to speak the truth to its people and recommit itself to the principles of democracy and freedom that once so inspired us.

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