I have to say, this news fills me with a deep well of sadness, maybe more so because I had been feeling buoyed by the new year. As someone who was raised to be tolerant of all religions, accept all cultures and embrace diversity, it's hard for me to imagine how it must feel to be persecuted for wanting to express your identity.
The charges against Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche, a 54-year old ethnic Tibetan monk, were "possession of ammunition and embezzlement". Now, I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, but my alarm bells go off when I look at this statement. The charges seem, well, random. They don't connect somehow. They just feel fabricated - a federal offense topped off my a moral one. Whose twisted creativity, whose base power-trip is this monk caught in?
His arrest came last year after "more than 80 nuns [..] held a demonstration against an official campaign to impose "patriotic re-education" on their convents, in which they were required to denounce Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama." This is the part that really hurts my heart - the attempt at re-writing the spiritual truth of an entire people, the suppression of the most basic freedoms to choose for yourself your heart's truth, your satya, your framework for living.
It astounds me that religious persecution is alive and well in 2010. It disheartens me that these news stories are footnotes in the world news, that here we go about our days while elsewhere, people live in fear and are silenced by oppression.
I wonder what Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche would advise me and my aching heart? I wonder what he will face during his 8-year sentence? I think I may light a candle for him tonight - maybe some of you will join me, and then he will not be so alone.