Climate change—discussions about it, and its devastating effects in parts of the Buddhist world—lead this latest batch of news. Also significant were stories about presidential politics (at home and abroad), and human rights concerns.As usual, there are some interesting odds and ends too: a museum under heavy security after the theft of some important Buddhist art, the launch of the West’s first Buddhist broadcasting foundation, and a profile of a nun who adopted seventy children.
Clearly there’s a lot to get to, so let’s dig right in.
The latest Parliament of the World’s Religions was held in Melbourne recently, and included a closing address by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
The Government of Bhutan recently convened an “Educating for Gross National Happiness” workshop. Shambhala acharya and Naropa University professor Judith Simmer-Brown attended and blogged about the event here.
Following some stinging criticisms of her, Burma’s ruling military junta allowed Prime Minister-elect and imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to meet with three senior leaders of her National League for Democracy party this week. (A junta official met with her as well.) On the heels of the decision, the U.S. State Department said that she should be allowed to hold more political talks.
Following her initial meeting, Suu Kyi called for “a reorganization of the aging central executive committee (CEC) of her NLD.”
The BBC reports that “the Supreme Court in Burma says it may allow the pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to appeal against her extended detention. The court said it would hear the case on December 21.”
In a strange twist, Chrysler has dedicated a new ad to Suu Kyi. The Los Angeles Times has the story behind that.
CNN reports that “more than 400 lawmakers from around the world have urged the United Nations to investigate Myanmar’s military junta, accusing it of committing crimes against humanity.”
Reuters reports that “seven people were killed and eleven injured when a bomb exploded in southeastern Myanmar, official media reported on Friday, blaming ethnic Karen separatists for the attack.”
Kyaw Zaw Lwin, the Burmese-American jailed earlier this year by the junta on charges of entering the country to provoke another Buddhist monastic uprising, is reportedly “in poor health.” (This may be because he is on a hunger strike.) In a letter released Friday, more than 50 U.S. lawmakers called for his immediate release.
Nobel Economics laureate Joseph Stiglitz is currently in Burma to “examine and improve” the country’s rural economy.
Scot Marciel, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, has said that there are no signs of progress on human rights and democracy in Burma despite recent U.S. engagement.
This feedback notwithstanding, the European Union is considering similar engagement with the junta.
A group called Veteran Politicians has sent a letter to Senior General Than Shwe, leader of the junta, “urging him to promote a policy of national reconciliation and unity leading up to the 2010 election.”
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) wants ASEAB and India to “play a constructive role to restore democracy in Burma by engaging genuine political dialogue among all parties in the state.”
Always a class act, the junta marked World AIDS Day with a statement in the state media linking the disease to “socially unacceptable behavior.”
This is all the more distressing considering the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma’s recent report that “medical negligence and lack of contraception in Burmese prisons are leading to high rates of HIV infection among inmates.” They further state that “at least ten political prisoners in Burma have died of AIDS-related illnesses, many of whom were healthy before being sentenced.”
The Democratic Voice of Burma reports on the continuing work of Burma’s “VJs.”
The exile news agency also reports that “urgent agricultural aid is still needed in Burma’s cyclone-stricken Irrawaddy delta, with farmers complaining that government funding for the sector is far from adequate.”
In a related story, seventeen cyclone aid workers and journalists who were arrested by the junta have been released.
The United Nations reports that the opium trade is expanding in the country.
The European Union is “seeking to allow Burmese refugees currently confined to camps along the Thailand-Burma border to work legally in Thailand.”
In addition, Japan’s prime minister has called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights “to assist in the resettlement to Japan of Burmese refugees currently in camps along the Thai-Burma border.”
The junta has “charged one-hundred-and-twenty-eight foreign fishermen with violating immigration laws after they were arrested last month for illegal fishing.”
A Sri Lankan Buddhist temple in Toronto had its second arson attack in six months, and the National Post speculates that “investigators are almost certainly examining whether the attack was connected to the Tamil nationalist conflict in Sri Lanka.”
The Daily Excelsior reports that “the chance find of a Kushan period stupa at Ambaran has not only taken back the date of the site to 2,000 years from today, but also made it as the earliest recorded Buddhist site in the entire state.”
Monasteries in Ladakh are in the midst of celebrating the birth and death anniversaries of Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.
Ikuo Hirayama, the artist and cultural conservationist “known for his efforts to preserve cultural treasures such as the Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia, China’s Mogao Caves and Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Buddhist monuments, which were dynamited in 2001 by the Taliban,” has died.
The Agence France-Presse reports on Japanese Buddhists’ use of rap, beer, and manga to attract people to temples.
The Center for Public Policy Analysis reports that “the persecution, imprisonment and killing of minority Christians and independent Animist and Buddhist groups who seek to worship in freedom outside the control of the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (LPDR) government’s control in Laos has intensified” ahead of the country’s hosting of the South East Asia Games.
As previously reported at this blog, the Dutch Buddhist Broadcast Foundation recently launched, becoming “the first independent Buddhist broadcasting foundation in the West to produce and broadcast Buddhist programs within a country’s Public Broadcasting Foundation System.”
The Venerable Battaramulle Seelaratana Thera is set to make history as the first Buddhist monk to run for the presidency of Sri Lanka this January.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s current president Mahinda Rajapakse and former army general Sarath Fonseka, who is also running in the election this January, “opened their campaigns [last] Monday with visits to separate Buddhist shrines.”
President Rajapaksa also “expressed his appreciation to the Buddhist monks for the guidance and blessings he received from the Mahasanga during the liberation of the country from terrorism.”
The country’s newly-appointed tourism minister, Achala Jagoda, plans to try to attract more visitors from “Buddhist countries.”
The Central News Agency reports that “a Buddhist nun has taken in more than seventy orphans and displaced children, raised them and allowed them to go to school over the past eleven years, because she cannot bear to see poor children suffer.”
The Agence France-Presse reports that “surrounded by water, a Buddhist temple is one of the last remnants of a Thai village that has vanished beneath the sea — a scene being repeated across Asia and the world [as a result of climate change].” (Photo above via AFP.)
Police snipers are protecting Buddhist artifacts at the Chawsamphraya National Museum “after a spate of robberies including one where thieves stole nearly 100 statues and works dating back 1,000 years.”
Violence continues in the southern part of the country.
The Tibetan Women’s Association, Students for a Free Tibet and the Gu Chu Sum movement held a panel discussion on climate change in Dharamsala as nearly two-hundred world leaders met in Copenhagen for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The meeting is timely for reasons other than Copenhagen: researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing have published a paper stating that “Tibet’s glaciers are melting at an alarming rate.”
Commenting on climate change recently, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, “Taking care of the environment … (is now) part of my life. Taking care of the environment should be part of our daily life…The elected government, sometimes their number one … priority is national interest, national economy interest, then global issues are sometimes secondary. That, I think, should change. The global issue should be number one. In some cases in order to protect global issues, some sacrifice of national interest (is needed).”
His Holiness also says he hopes to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama sometime in 2010, and that he did not “insist” on meeting his fellow Nobel Peace laureate earlier this year because “[the President] could take up the Tibet issue with the Chinese government in a more conducive environment if he did not meet me before his visit [to China].”
Tibetan Review reports that “the permanent population of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) will reach 3.4 million over the next 11 years, with 1.46 million living in urban areas…It was not explained, however, how much of these figures will be due to Chinese immigration.”
The Danish government released a statement saying that “Denmark is fully aware of the importance and sensitivity of Tibet-related issues and attaches great importance to the view of the Chinese government on these issues…Denmark takes very seriously the Chinese opposition to meetings between members of the Danish Government and the Dalai Lama, and has duly noted Chinese views that such meetings are against the core interest of China, and will handle such issues prudently. In this regard, Denmark reaffirms its One-China Policy and its unchanged position that Tibet is an integral part of China. Denmark recognises China’s sovereignty over Tibet and accordingly opposes the independence of Tibet.”
The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy has issued a statement on the 61st anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
Phayul reports that “Chinese authorities in Lhasa have arrested a Tibetan monk, Yeshi Jinpa, currently receiving medical treatment in the Tibetan capital, a Tibetan exile with contacts in Tibet.” The reason for the arrest is not known.
Dozens protesting the imprisonment of another monk, Tenzin Delek, were arrested in China’s Sichuan province.
Meanwhile, Yankyi Dolma, a Buddhist nun arrested for staging a protest, died in a hospital.
His Holiness will visit Bloomington, IN, for the sixth time next May to lecture on the Heart Sutra.
His Holiness also recently helped the Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts celebrate fifty years of existence.
THE UNITED STATES
Artdaily.org reports that “one of the most complete and textured collections of Tibetan Buddhist art in private hands will be presented to the public for the first time this winter through an exhibition at the Freer + Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and documented in a related book, A Shrine for Tibet: The Alice S. Kandell Collection, by Marilyn M. Rhie and Robert A.F. Thurman.”
The first Nepalese Buddhist temple in the U.S. has just been consecrated in Portland, OR.
Thich Thai Thuan, abbot of Bat Nha Monastery, tells the Agence France-Presse that members of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing may no longer seek shelter at his temple.
In addition, a European Union delegation on a fact-finding mission to Bat Nha Monastery had some trouble with local authorities and an angry crowd.