Moving Forward Together

Dear friends, dear brothers and sisters,

It is heartening to see all of you coming to the Seventh Interethnic/Interfaith Leadership Conference.   When I think of the distances, especially the psychological distances that we have traveled to be here, I am blessedly reminded that even with all the difficulties facing us which, sadly to say, may not have become less daunting than at the beginning of this century when this conference was first started, so much has already been done to establish the foundational spirit of community that is essential to our labors in and on behalf of the future.

When we first undertook this endeavor in 2000, we knew we were taking up one of the most challenging jobs in the world but knew not how long we would be able to persevere.  Twelve years and seven major assemblies and hard work in between should justly bestow us some pride.  Looking back, my heart is filled with gratitude to the people of conscience and vision like those at the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy and Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. Without their unwavering support, it is truly questionable whether we could have traveled so far as we did.  Most importantly, the peoples and groups that our participants here represent have never, in past decades, spared a single day in their struggle for freedom and dignity.  They have been the major source of inspiration to us, and their unflagging spirit has led us every step of the way toward where we are today.

In our past assemblies and our work in between, we have been committed to following the principles of respecting for the differences between ethnic groups, embracing human rights as a universal value, uniting as one for the realization of a common democratic future, to non-violence and overcoming evil with good.  We have been committed to maintaining close communication, exercising tolerance and forgiveness toward each other, eliminating hatred, resentment and misunderstanding, pursuing truth, accomplishing reconciliation and loving one another, and we have been committed to mutual concern for each others’ human rights, and to offer necessary assistance.  I want to refresh every one of us with these principles which, arduously established, should guide us today to move us forward together. ‘Moving forward together’ is the theme of this assembly.

A year ago, we held our 6th assembly in Los Angeles which is not far from here.  This past year experienced the Chinese regime’s crackdowns against various ethnic, religious and political groups with greater frequency and increasing brutality, and people’s unprecedented resistances as highlighted by the spate of Tibetan self-immolation protests.  During the coming three days, we will discuss these situations as well as strategies for us to take actions as a whole.

In this past year, two major elections took place in regions represented here in this conference, one in Taiwan and the other in Hong Kong.  We will hear reports on the elections and the impacts those elections will have on the people in Taiwan and Hong Kong as well as other peoples represented by our participants sitting here.  We will be privileged to hear lectures by prominent professors from both American and Chinese universities that will inform and empower our thinking for our future work.  Our most inspiring representative – Ms. Rebiya Kadeer – will share with us her thoughts on how promote democracy through mutual understanding and cooperation.  Very encouraging indeed that this conference will also feature three teenage girls who will present special reports on their quest for freedom as ‘second generation’ of Tiananmen activists.  We will be lucky to have leading voices of nonviolence principles and political changes in the Middle East and Burma who will share with us their respective valuable experiences.  And, I am most thankful that His Holiness the Dalai Lama will meet with our participants.  I believe every one of you is as eager as myself to hear His teachings.

Now let us begin our program.

Let this meeting lay the groundwork for us to create strategies for us to continue to move forward together.

Thank you.