FaithWorld

China says Dalai Lama must reincarnate, can’t pick successor

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(The Dalai Lama during a talk at Mumbai University, February 18, 2011/Danish Siddiqui)

Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, does not have a right to choose his successor any way he wants and must follow the historical and religious tradition of reincarnation, a Chinese official said on Monday.

It is unclear how the 76-year-old Dalai Lama, who lives in India and is revered by many Tibetans, plans to pick his successor. He has said that the succession process could break with tradition — either by being hand-picked by him or through democratic elections. But Padma Choling, the Chinese-appointed governor of Tibet, said that the Dalai Lama had no right to abolish the institution of reincarnation, underscoring China’s hardline stance on one of the most sensitive issues for the restless and remote region.

“I don’t think this is appropriate. It’s impossible, that’s what I think,” he said on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China’s parliament, when asked about the Dalai Lama’s suggestion that his successor may not be his reincarnation.  “We must respect the historical institutions and religious rituals of Tibetan Buddhism,” said Padma Choling, a Tibetan and a former soldier in the People’s Liberation Army.  “I am afraid it is not up to anyone whether to abolish the reincarnation institution or not.”

The Chinese government says it has to approve all reincarnations of living Buddhas, or senior religious figures in Tibetan Buddhism. It also says China has to sign off on the choosing of the next Dalai Lama. Some worry that once the Dalai Lama dies, China will simply appoint its own successor, raising the possibility of there being two Dalai Lamas — one recognised by China and the other chosen by exiles or with the blessing of the current Dalai Lama.

World cardinals hold rare Vatican meeting on abuse, converts

consistoryRoman Catholic cardinals from around the world met in a rare gathering at the Vatican on Friday to discuss religious freedom, sexual abuse of children by priests and accepting  Anglican converts. The debate on religious freedom unfolded against the backdrop of a fresh Vatican conflict with China’s communist government over the ordination of a bishop without papal permission. (Photo: Pope Benedict meets cardinals at the Vatican November 19, 2010/Tony Gentile)

The closed-door meetings were taking place on the eve of a ceremony known as a consistory at which the pope will create 24 new cardinals, including 20 who are under 80 and thus eligible to enter a secret conclave to elect his successor.

The existing cardinals and cardinals-elect will also hear reports about the sexual abuse scandal which has rocked the Church in a number of countries.

Factbox-U.S. cites repression of religious freedom around the world

The United States on Wednesday unveiled its annual survey of religious freedom, citing countries ranging from North Korea to Eritrea as repressing religious liberties.

Following are some of the conclusions from the State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report on eight countries previously named as areas of “special concern” over their limits on religious freedom.

religious 1MYANMAR (BURMA)

The report said Myanmar’s military rulers ignored constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and systematically restricted efforts by Buddhist clergy to promote human rights and political liberties.

Europe cited in US religious freedoms report

minaret 1 (Photo: A cow in a Swiss meadow next to billboard against minarets in Zwillikon November 13, 2009/Christian Hartmann)

The United States voiced concern on Wednesday over deteriorating religious freedoms in many parts of the world, including several European countries where “harsh measures” limiting religious expression have been put in place.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled the latest State Department report on global religious freedom, which rates countries around the world.

“Religious freedom is both a fundamental human right and an essential element to any stable, peaceful, thriving society,” Clinton told a news conference

Taiwan Buddhist charity Tzu Chi sets up shop in atheist China

charity 1China’s ruling Communist Party has a testy and often bitter relationship with religion.  During the chaos of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, temples and churches were shut, statues smashed, scriptures burned, and monks and nuns forced to return to secular life, often after receiving a good beating or even jail. (Photo: Suzhou, June 10, 2005/Thierry Roge)

While the officially atheist Communist Party hardly pushes religion these days, its attitude has softened considerably, though rights groups frequently complain of sometimes harsh restrictions on Christians and Muslims especially.

On Friday, the Taiwanese Buddhist charity the Tzu Chi Foundation opened its Chinese chapter, in the historic eastern Chinese city of Suzhou, perhaps better known in the outside world for its stunning gardens. Officials say Tzu Chi is the first overseas non-governmental organisation to receive the Ministry of Civil Affairs’ blessing to operate in China. Normally they have to register with the Commerce Ministry as businesses.

VIDEO: Roundup of Ramadan starting in Turkey, Asia, Afghanistan

Below is a Reuters video roundup of the start of Ramadan in Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Afghanistan:

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Report from Tibet: “We believe in Buddhism, Chinese believe in nothing”

lhasaTibet is richer and more developed than it has ever been, its people healthier, more literate, and better dressed and fed.  But the bulging supermarkets, snappy new airports and gleaming restored temples of this remote and mountainous region cannot hide broad contradictions and a deep sense of unhappiness among many Tibetans that China is sweeping away their culture. (Photo: A Tibetan woman spins her praying wheel as she walks around the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, March 10, 2010/China Daily)

Beijing has spent freely to bring development to restless Tibet, part of a grand strategy to win over the proudly Buddhist people by improving their standard of living.  Lhasa is starting to look like any other middle-tier Chinese city, with the same fast food outlets and mobile phone stores, and the same unimaginative architecture.

Large sums have also gone into restoring monasteries and temples, the centre of life for devoutly Buddhist Tibetans, bolstering government claims that China respects religious rights.

Q+A – Does Dalai Lama meeting help or hurt Obama?

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Dalai Lama in a 11 Nov 2009 file photo in India/Adnan Abidi

U.S. President Barack Obama will meet the Dalai Lama on Thursday after avoiding a get-together before his China trip last year. The White House visit by the Tibetan Buddhist leader comes at a time of increased tension between the United States and China, which has warned that the session will hurt Sino-U.S. ties.

Since 1990 every U.S. president has met the Dalai Lama at the White House. President George H.W. Bush started the tradition after the Chinese authorities crushed student-led pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and an uprising in Tibet.

Is this a meeting Obama could do without? Will it help him burnish his human rights credentials? Examine these and other questions about the visit in this question-and-answer piece from our Washington bureau.

Pew measures global religious restrictions

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has come out with a new report that tries to measure, country by country on a global level, government and social restrictions on religion. You can see our coverage of the report here and here and can download the whole report here.

The report, which Pew says is the first major quantitative study of the subject on a global level, ranks countries under two indices — one measures government restrictions on religion, the other social hostilities or curbs on religion that stem from violence or intimidation by private individuals or groups. NIGERIA RELIGION

A damaged mosque in Onitsha in southeastern Nigeria

The Government Restrictions Index is based on 20 questions used by the Pew Forum to assess state curbs on religion at the national, provincial and local levels.

U.S. sees “mixed picture” on world religious freedom

seoul-prayer-protest (Photo: CHristians pray during an anti-North Korea and pro-U.S. protest in Seoul, 3 Oct 2007/Han Jae-Ho)

The United States sees a mixed picture on world religious freedom, with progress in interfaith dialogue weighed against government repression and sectarian strife in many countries.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday unveiled the latest State Department report on global religious freedom, which particularly criticized Iran and North Korea among other countries for harsh limits on religious expression.

“It is our hope that the … report will encourage existing religious freedom movements around the world,” Clinton said, adding that all people should have the right to believe or not as they see fit.

The report tagged North Korea, Iran, Myanmar, China, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan among the worst offenders, placing them on a watch list put out earlier this year.