A Tibetan Buddhist monk burnt himself to death in western China Wednesday, triggering a street protest against government controls on the restive region, a group campaigning for Tibetan self-rule said. The self-immolation appeared to be a small repeat of protests that gripped Tibetan areas of China in March 2008, when Buddhist monks and other Tibetan people loyal to the exiled Dalai Lama, their traditional religious leader, confronted police and troops.
Roman 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.
The United States on Wednesday unveiled its annual survey of religious freedom, citing countries ranging from North Korea to Eritrea as repressing religious liberties.
(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.
China’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.
Tibet 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.
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.