Public Scholarship

"Dalai Lama Disinvited" by Michael Napolitano
The Circle - March 26, 2009

It saddens my heart to hear that the South African government will not allow the Dalai Lama to participate in a peace conference in Johannesburg. In a statement, the South African government wrote that they did not want to stress their relations with China, an important economic ally to the country. Although it is difficult for the country to rectify its role as a leader of the developing world, I would expect better from their government.

Although South Africa has only been a democracy for 15 years, they have demonstrated great pragmatism in the field of human rights and peace. As the spiritual leader of millions of conflict ridden people and one of the most respected peace advocates in the world, the Dalai Lama is the symbol of harmony and hope in the world; barring him from participating in the conference would be a distinct step back for South Africa.

This decision on the part of the South African government is being described by some solely as a "business" decision. This is quite clear as the South African government is engaging in a very poor attempt to please the Chinese government, one of South Africa's largest trading allies. As a nation that has overcome so much oppression and segregation, South Africa should understand the importance of peace.

Many Nobel peace laureates who were planning on attending the conference are now planning on not attending because of the absence of his holiness. Desmond Tutu, the former archbishop of Cape Town and a Nobel peace laureate, is one of the absentees who was quoted in saying that excluding the Dalai Lama is "disgraceful."

One issue that is clearly not being addressed here is that peace is not something that a government can deny on the basis of business. Although the Dalai Lama advocates for a free Tibet, it doesn't mean that he is going to slander the Chinese government during the conference nor does it mean that South Africa's relationship with China is going to be jeopardized.

More than anything else in the world now, peace is something that we should all be striving for. Through all the turmoil of the global society, with the interconnectedness of the world becoming ever clearer, peace is becoming more of a necessity. Excluding his holiness from the proceedings at this conference is not going to achieve any additional positive outcome for the world.

We will only achieve peace if we all strive for its attainment, people and government.