Dedicated to GYATSO, Tenzin (aka HH Dalai Lama)
Story for GYATSO, Tenzin:
Tenzin Gyatso is the Tibetan name of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. An Honourary Canadian citizen and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, His Holiness was forced to escape Tibet in 1959 after a decade of illegal occupation by Communist Chinese forces. Dialogue and peaceful resolution was attempted by His Holiness and his advisors since Communist China's first foray into Tibet in 1949. When Chairman Mao Zedong said "Religion is poison" to His Holiness, during a Beijing visit, it signaled an end to dialogue and start of a tragic story for the Tibetan people.
During Chairman Mao's "Great Leap Forward," Tibetans suffered through the Tibetan Cultural Revolution experiencing some of the worst human rights abuses ever known, under the slogan "Smash the Four Olds:" old ideas, old culture, old customs and old habits. An estimated 1 million Tibetans died, one fifth of its total population of 6 million, died as a direct result of Chinese brutal actions and policies.
Before the Chinese occupation, there were 6,000 Tibetan monasteries in Tibet. After the Cultural Revolution, there remain only six. Hundreds of thousands of Monks, Nuns and civilians were imprisoned or killed for wearing traditional hairstyles and clothing, engaging in traditional song or dance, or voicing their religious beliefs. Rituals such as prostrations, mantras, prayer wheels, circumambulation, throwing tsampa and burning juniper or incense are strictly prohibited. Anything representing the cultural identity of the Tibetan people was targeted for eradication.
Today Tibetan culture is thriving freely in Canada - home to one of the largest Tibetan diaspora communities in the West. Approximately 8,000 Tibetans call Canada home. After finding themselves stateless after fleeing Communist China's illegal occupation of Tibet, Tibetan Canadians are active promoting the shared Canadian and Tibetan values of peace, hard work and community service.