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US Senators ask gov’t how it could best protect Tibetan religious freedom, including on the reincarnation issue

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 07: The U.S. Capitol building is pictured on November 7, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo courtesy: Zach Gibson/Rewire News)

(TibetanReview.net, May12’19) – A bipartisan group of US senators has asked to know from the country’s envoy on religious freedom “how the US can best support Tibetan Buddhists, to include collaboration with the international community to uphold religious freedom, and to convey that religious traditions should not be subject to government encroachment.”

The group, led by Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has written to the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback this week to convey their concerns on the particularly serious situation in Chinese ruled Tibet.

The letter was signed by committee members Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla), Cory Gardner (R-Colo), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Tom Udall (D-NM), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga), John Barrasso (R-Wyo), Ed Markey (D-Mass), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

The group has explained its position “that promoting religious freedom must remain a central pillar of US foreign policy.”

The letter inevitably refers to the issue of the reincarnation process in Tibetan Buddhism and highlights the direct interest the US has in protecting the right of Buddhists to maintain this religious tradition.

“While we cannot serve as arbiters of Buddhist belief or rules on reincarnation, we strongly believe that as a matter of safeguarding their religious freedom, the Tibetan Buddhist community and the Dalai Lama must be able to determine reincarnation and succession as a community and without government interference.”

In particular, the group has emphasized: “Action by any government, including the Chinese government, to intervene or select the next Dalai Lama would undermine the legitimacy of a revered Tibetan Buddhist institution and deprive millions of Buddhist practitioners worldwide, including those in the United States, their legitimate spiritual leader and teacher. The United States has a direct interest in protecting the right of Buddhists to religious freedom, and to ensure their religious institutions, like those of all religions, are not undermined and able to operate freely.”

The group wants the US ambassador to play a role in ensuring that China desists from interfering in this core aspect of the Tibetan people’s religious practice. “We urge you to spearhead efforts by the US government and international community to ensure the 15th Dalai Lama is chosen according to religious practice, and not subject to governmental interference by Beijing or any other government.”

The Senators want Brownback to share his views on how the US can best support Tibetan religious freedom, including through collaboration with the international community.

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