Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Friday, April 27, 2012. (PMO photo/Jason Ransom)
DHARAMSHALA, April 29: Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama told an international gathering of parliamentarians that the Tibetan spirit is becoming stronger amidst growing Chinese repression in Tibet.
"Don't feel hopeless or feel discouraged," the Dalai Lama said while speaking at the inauguration of the 6th World Parliamentarian Conference on Tibet Friday in Ottawa, Canada. "The more suppression, the stronger the Tibetan spirit."
The gathering included over 50 parliamentarians representing 30 countries from around the world, including MPs from Canada's three main federal parties. Guests at the three-day conference from April 27 – 29 included actor Richard Gere and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
A 60-member strong Tibetan delegation, including Tibetan Members of Parliament from India are also taking part in the convention being hosted by Canada for the maiden time.
"As fellow human brothers, sisters really showing us your solidarity, and you really want to do something, I very much appreciate," the 76-year old Tibetan leader said while sending out a harsh warning that Tibetan culture is at risk of cultural extinction at the hands of the Chinese.
"In our own area, there are tremendous difficulties," he said. "The situation locally is one ancient nation, with very rich ancient cultural heritage, is actually dying."
The Dalai Lama said China is sowing the seeds of dissent by oppressing ethnic minorities, evidenced by the increasing ethnic unrest in the restive regions of Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia.
"This sends a clear signal to the Chinese authorities that their system . . . is unrealistic and will not bring unity or stability," he said.
Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, speaking at the convention, said Canada continues to encourage Chinese authorities to resume direct talks with the Dalai Lama.
"Kundun, we are delighted to have you back," Kenney said.
Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, a longtime human rights advocate, said he was happy to see all-party support for "one of the greatest heroes of our time."
"I think that the Dalai Lama and his cause deserve support,” Cotler said. "That's important because it reflects the fact that the Dalai Lama represents one of the great just causes of our time."
The 6th WPCT, besides the inaugural and concluding sessions, will hold six plenary sessions on topics, including; Tibet – The Third Pole: Importance of Environmental Stewardship, Challenges before the Tibetan People Today, Discussion on China’s Policies in Tibet and Future Prospects in view of the upcoming Change in Chinese Leadership, and the Interdependence between Cultural and Religious Freedom and Social Stability.
Later today, the convention is expected to adopt the Ottawa Declaration and 6th WPCT Action Plan.