Dalai Lama snub hurts peace talks

NEW DELHI, Reuters

Tibet’s government-in-exile said on Tuesday that the Dalai Lama’s exclusion from the “Millennium World Peace Summit” at the United Nations risked undermining the meeting of world religious and spiritual leaders.

Tashi Wangdi, religion and culture minister for the Central Tibetan Administration, said the summit’s organizers should not have bowed to pressure from Beijing on the Nobel peace laureate.

“It is wrong not to invite his Holiness to such a major religion conference which is particularly concerned with world peace, especially so when his Holiness is recognized as one of the most important advocates of world peace and inter-religion understanding,” Wangdi said.

The summit, organized by a coalition of non-government religious groups with assistance from the United Nations, opened in the General Assembly hall on Monday.

The aim of the meeting, which ends on Thursday, is to bring spiritual and religious leaders into the framework of the United Nations in a bid to help resolve conflicts and preserve peace.

But the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists and winder of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, was absent from the gathering of more than 15 major faith traditions.

The god-king’s office said his exclusion from the summit was apparently due to pressure from the Chinese communist government.

Wangdi told Reuters from the Indian Himalayan foothills town of Dharamshala — seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile — that the Dalai Lama’s exclusion would harm the conference itself.

“It undermines the importance and credibility of the conference and also the image of the United Nations,” he said. “It’s wrong to bow down to pressure of one country.”

Dharamshala is home to thousands of Tibetans who fled along with the Dalai Lama for India in 1959. The United Nations is the venue for some of the events. The others are at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel.

The Dalai Lama declined a belated invitation to the closing ceremony at the Waldorf, the summit’s headquarters, because he was excluded from the United Nations compound, organizers said.

“His Holiness has graciously agreed to send a high-level delegation and expressed his inability to attend the… concluding ceremony because of the late arrival of the invitation, and said he would not like to cause any inconvenience to any government authority or organization,” Wangdi said.

“And he would not like to accept an invitation sent under compulsion.”

Wangdi said many peace leaders and Nobel laureates, including South African Archbishop Desmond Tuto, had expressed their unhappiness over the Dalai Lama’s exclusion from the conference.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan told reporters on Monday: “I have indicated that it would have been preferable if everyone were here.”