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Barbara O'Brien

Where Are the Monks of Lhasa? Update

By July 6, 2008

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A few days ago a Canadian journalist reported on the strange absence of Buddhist monks from the streets of Lhasa, Tibet. Now Jane McCartney of the Times of London reports that few monks remain in Lhasa's three main monasteries, Drepung, Sera and Ganden. Each monastery had several hundred monks in residence before the March demonstrations, and now they are nearly empty.

McCartney says dozens, if not hundreds, of monks have been detained by Chinese authorities because of their suspected role in violent protests that rocked Lhasa last March before spreading to other parts of Tibet. This did not account for the empty halls of the monasteries, however.

Now Tibetan sources say more than 1,000 additional monks have been imprisoned or placed in detention camps. McCartney says the "detained monks are all young ethnic Tibetans from surrounding regions who had made their way to Lhasa, their spiritual capital, to study and pray in the most prestigious spiritual centres on the Roof of the World."

The monks were arrested because they had not registered as formal residents of the administrative region. Their families have been told they will be released after the Olympic Games are concluded.

You can see recent images of Sera Monastery and its few remaining monks in Buddhism Under Guard, a photo gallery.

Elsewhere -- in today's New York Times, Daniel Slotnik describes a new documentary about Palden Gyatso, a Tibetan Buddhist monk who was imprisoned and brutally tortured for refusing to denounce His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

July 12, 2008 at 9:03 am
(1) Cathy says:

What can we do to help bring more attention to this issue?

July 12, 2008 at 11:06 pm
(2) Monica says:

I want to help, is there anything that can be done? This, along with so many other things, is so heartbreaking.

July 13, 2008 at 1:06 am
(3) Song says:

So sad that in this modern world. People forget about Respect Religions and treating Holy People bad. I am just ordinary human which i feel heartbreaking and hurt so much to know about what happened.

I pray to Mighty God and Hope that the Land will be taking care by Holy People and keep it as Holy Place forever because this WORLD LACK of HOLY LAND.

Peace & Love

July 14, 2008 at 6:56 am
(4) Cathy says:

Do you have any suggestions? I live in the States, and I don’t know how much influence I can have from here…

July 16, 2008 at 3:28 am
(5) caljellygrl says:

I had the good fortune of visiting Lhasa a few weeks ago as part of an externship. The place, the people, and the culture is absolutely breathtaking. The hardships that the monks are going through are absolutely unacceptable. We must do everything we can to spread the word. After all, the pen is mightier than the sword!

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