Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An Open Letter to the Panchen Lama

April 25, 2011

Dear Gendun Choekyi Nyima,

I don't think you will receive this letter. I know that you're being watched, monitored and controlled 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But deep down I have this stubborn hope that maybe you will hear us. Maybe you'll see us typing these words in New York, as you turn 22.

I am writing on behalf of Students for a Free Tibet, an organization with more than 50,000 members in over 100 countries. Every one of us are thinking of you at this moment. Ever since you were abducted by the Chinese government at age 6, we lost touch with you. We don't know where you are, or how you are. But after all these years, we're still thinking of you and fighting for your freedom. We're not giving up.

22 is a great age to be, at least for the average boy. When I was 22, I was in my final year of college, excited but nervous at the prospect of entering the real world. I wonder how you're feeling as you turn 22, another year in captivity, for committing no crime except that of being the Panchen Lama. The Chinese government has robbed you of your childhood, your adolescence, your identity, your rights, your friendships, and your country.

No matter what you've been told by your minders and tutors appointed by Beijing, there is a world out here where people are searching for you. Tibetans and supporters hang your photo in their homes or carry it in their wallets. Mothers hold your image to their chest, your photograph wet from tears and crumpled from years of separation. We have not forgotten you. In fact, with each passing year of your absence, your presence is burnt ever deeper into our memory.

Your previous incarnation, the 10th Panchen Lama, is remembered for his monumental contribution to the Tibetan nation. What is less known about him is that he was also a great Buddhist scholar. In this time of suffering and oppression, he would have enlightened us to the reality that nothing is permanent, not even China's oppression in Tibet. Only freedom and truth will endure the test of time.

The Chinese empire stands on a foundation of lies, and these lies are falling apart. We know that the forces that keep you imprisoned are running out of time. As the world moves from darkness to light, from oppression to freedom, from dictatorship to democracy, we can see the fog clearing up on the horizon. The day is not far when you will join the real world, to live a free life, to take your rightful seat at Tashi Lhunpo Monastery.

Sending you wishes and prayers on your 22nd birthday. May you celebrate your next birthday in freedom.

Tibet will be free.

With hands folded in reverence, most sincerely yours,

Students for a Free Tibet