The horrific violence in the Middle East, which in the case of Syria has led to the greatest refugee crisis in a generation, and appalling terrorist attacks — as we were sadly reminded this weekend — have created deep-seated fear, notes the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, the spiritual leader of Tibet. While it would be easy to feel a sense of hopelessness and despair, it is all the more necessary in the early years of the 21st century to be realistic and optimistic, he writes for The Washington Post:
Recognition of universal human rights, including the right to self-determination, has expanded beyond anything imagined a century ago. There is growing international consensus in support of gender equality and respect for women. Particularly among the younger generation, there is a widespread rejection of war as a means of solving problems. Across the world, many are doing valuable work to prevent terrorism, recognizing the depths of misunderstanding and the divisive idea of “us” and “them” that is so dangerous.
The notion of absolute victory for one side and defeat of another is thoroughly outdated; in some situations, following conflict, suffering arises from a state that cannot be described as either war or peace, he contends:
Indeed, history has shown that nonviolent resistance ushers in more durable and peaceful democracies and is more successful in removing authoritarian regimes than violent struggle.
To find solutions to the environmental crisis and violent conflicts that confront us in the 21st century, we need to seek new answers. Even though I am a Buddhist monk, I believe that these solutions lie beyond religion in the promotion of a concept I call secular ethics. This is an approach to educating ourselves based on scientific findings, common experience and common sense — a more universal approach to the promotion of our shared human values.
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has a moral responsibility to try to ease tensions between majority Buddhists and minority Rohingya Muslims, according to her fellow Nobel laureate, Reuters reports:
“She already has the Nobel Peace Prize, a Nobel Laureate, so morally she should … make efforts to reduce this tension between the Buddhist community and Muslim community,” he told Reuters in an interview in Washington. “I actually told her she should speak more openly.”….
The Dalai Lama said Suu Kyi, who won worldwide acclaim and a Nobel Peace Prize as a champion of democratic change in the face of military persecution, had responded to his calls by saying that the situation was “really complicated.”
Tibet’s decades-long struggle for liberty is famous around the world, Lobsang Sangay wrote for the July 2003 issue of the Journal of Democracy. Less well-known is the tale of how the Tibetan government in exile and large numbers of Tibetans abroad have worked to foster not only the freedom of the homeland from which they have been driven, but also the practice of democracy among themselves, he added. Their hope is that one day the institutions they have been nurturing—founded squarely upon the principles of government by consent and liberty under law—can take root and flourish in the soil of a free Tibet, noted Sangay (then a Harvard student, now the elected premier of the Tibetan government-in-exile), in an analysis of democratic trends within the Tibetan diaspora.
NED will present the Democracy Service Medal to honor the courageous work of the late Tibetan Buddhist Monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a prominent political prisoner who died in a Sichuan prison in 2015. NED will also use this special occasion to recognize the democratic accomplishments of the Central Tibetan Administration, which assumed full responsibility for the Tibetan government in exile after the Dalai Lama devolved his political authority in 2011.
Other speakers include: Arzu Geybullayeva, Journalist, Azerbaijan; Rosa Maria Payá, Cuba Decide; Azaz Elshami, Sudanese Digital Activist; Rami Soud, Jordanian Activist.
Rosa Maria Payá is a young human rights and democracy activist hailing from Havana, Cuba. Since 2009 she has led a number of civil society activities in Cuba and was part of the coordinating team of the Christian Liberation Movement (Movimiento Cristiano Liberacion), founded by her father, famed democracy activist and 2002 European Parliament Sakharov Prize winner Oswaldo Payá. Currently, she is head of the Cuba Decide (Cuba Decides) campaign, which calls for the Cuban government to issue a plebiscite asking whether the Cuban people would like to hold free and fair elections for the first time in over 60 years.
Azaz Elshami is a Sudanese human rights and gender equality advocate. … Elshami advocates for Internet access rights and she has been an analyst for the Sudan Section of Freedom on the Net reports for 2 consecutive years (2015 and 2016). ..Elshami’s work with grassroots and civil society groups on developing advocacy campaigns, online and offline, yielded two significant milestones in her career: one was translating a book on strategic use of social media into Arabic, and the other was authoring the Sudan chapter component of the annual Freedom on the Net report (2015), a project by Freedom House that examines online freedoms and laws governing internet governance.
Arzu Geybullayeva is a freelance journalist from Azerbaijan, whose reporting focuses on human rights violations and democracy issues in Azerbaijan. She has worked as a co-director at the ImagineCenter for Conflict Transformation…. She regularly writes for her English language blog, Flying Carpets and Broken Pipelines. She is a regular contributor to Open Democracy, Meydan tv, Azadliq Radio and other independent media outlets, and manages Khadija Ismayilova’s live blog while Khadija is in prison.
Rami Soud is a Jordanian activist who believes that democratic values, dialogue, and knowledge-sharing are important for young people to get involved in social change and political participation in the Arab region. Rami is currently the Executive Director at Success Network 21, which aims to spread the culture of success and prosperity and promote the concept of community leadership among young people in the Middle East and Africa.