Oct. 8, 2009 ,Washington D.C.
Many of us have traveled great distances to be here today, but all of us have traveled even further mentally to make this conference possible. The tensions and hostilities that have divided us are like so many open wounds on the body of our common cause. Only by healing these wounds will we march strongly towards the horizon where the dawn of freedom, truth, equality and peace for us all will one day break.
No matter whom you sit here representing, you have been victimized by the Chinese Communist Party. Tibetans, Uyghurs, Mongolians, and Han; Christians, Fa Lungong, and Muslims; all have suffered, and all now suffer, at the hands of this cruel regime. The people of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, their freedoms are being compromised by its political and economic intimidation.
The Chinese Communist Party’s rule is entirely based on a calculated combination of fear, violence, truth-suppression, ethnic tension, and, most recently, a capitalism which trades wealth for silence, money for obedience. The Communist Party’s sixty years in power testify to the effectiveness of these tools. But even with efficiency and ruthlessness at its disposal, it has no real future. Its ideals run so counter to the most fundamental human drives for freedom, truth, equality and peace that it will always be beating back the tide in order to maintain its existence.
We ourselves are part of the crest of this tide, and we are gradually eroding the fortifications of China’s ruling regime. Perhaps this is happening more slowly than we would like it too, but we must not allow our occasional impatience to blind us to the fact that this very gathering is one more example of just how much of a failure the last 60 years of communist rule in China have been.
My friends—and let us resolve upon brotherhood as a guiding and uniting principle for our work together—we are each other’s keepers, we are each other’s freedom, we are each other’s peace, we are each other’s hope. Over two thousand years ago, the Roman poet Horace wrote, “When your neighbor’s house is on fire, your own property is at risk.” Today, in China, each one of the houses of freedom is on fire. Mine, yours, and everyone else’s. Han, Tibetan, Uyghur, and Mongolian; Christian, Fa Lungong, and Muslim; those of the people of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao—we all see and smell the flames that only the strong tide of freedom will quench.
My friends—and let us also resolve that only in friendship will we find freedom, truth, equality and peace—under the circumstances I have just described, we have no choice but to work together and avoid the divisiveness, apathy, fear, and hatred that will only play into the hands of the Chinese government and feed the status quo.
Make no mistake, the regime is doomed, but inaction or fragmented action will only forestall its eventual crumbling. The world cannot afford another 60 years of Chinese Communist Party rule.
Our plight as people of conscience dedicated to freedom and truth is like that of Ngwang Sangdrol, a twenty-nine-year-old woman who was born in Lhasa, Tibet. Before her birth, much of her homeland and its culture had been destroyed by the Chinese government. Ngwang’s parents sent her to a nunnery so that she could study Buddhist traditions, and when she was thirteen she joined some people who were demonstrating for freedom of religion.
Her reward was a rope around her neck and a beating by the police. But this did not silence her. Soon after she was released, she joined another demonstration. This time she was sentenced to three years in prison, where she was beaten to unconsciousness and forbidden from practicing Buddhism. Still, she was not silenced. She and some of her fellow prisoners secretly recorded songs praising the Dalai Lama. The recording was smuggled out and it traveled the world. China was pressured to release Ngwang and her fellow prisoners, but it added six years to her sentence instead.
After eleven years in prison, she was sent home. In 2003, she was offered asylum here, in the United States. “Freedom is wonderful” she said. She now lives in New Jersey with two other nuns from the prison. Each morning they begin with a prayer, and each day she studies English because, in her words, “it is my duty to speak well enough to explain how my country is suffering; to tell the world that Tibetans deserve freedom, too.”
Like Ngwang, it is our duty to learn a new language—it is our duty to speak well enough so that we can put aside our differences and talk to each other anew. Our language must be a unifying language of friendship and common cause. We must use this language to speak to each other, and to the rest of the world, about our joint struggle for freedom, truth, and peace.
Let us start putting these words together today. For not only do our various peoples deserve freedom for the sake of one another, but so too does the world deserve our freedom for it’s own sake. Your freedom is my freedom and mine yours.
In the name of brotherhood and friendship, I thank you.