Dalai Lama Decrys Anti-Muslim Violence During Birthday Celebration

Tenzin Gyasto, the 14th Dalai Lama, celebrated his 79th birthday with an address in which he spoke out against violence targeting Muslim minorities in Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

The Dalai Lama spoke before tens of thousands of Buddhists, CNN reports. Hollywood actor Richard Gere was among the crowd there to hear the Buddhist leader speak in the Indian town of Leh.

“I urge the Buddhists in these countries to imagine an image of Buddha before they commit such a crime,” the Dalai Lama said, speaking from the town high in the Himalayas. “Buddha preaches love and compassion,” the Tibetan spiritual leader continued. “If the Buddha is there, he will protect the Muslims whom the Buddhists are attacking.”

Rising tides of nationalism, spearheaded by extremist monks, have sprung up in both countries. Religious violence has taken 200 lives in Myanmar and left 150,000 people, predominantly Muslims, homeless. Curfews were imposed in the city of Mandalay last week after clashes between Buddhists and Muslims left 14 injured and killed two.

The Dalai Lama celebrated his 79th birthday at his residence at Ladakh, outside of Leh, AlJazeera reports. Though the Dalai Lama announced his retirement from politics two years ago, he remains an extremely powerful symbol for Tibetans as the most visible face of the Tibetan freedom movement. China has accused the Dalai Lama of covertly supporting Tibetan independence, although he has stated that he supports “meaningful autonomy” for Tibetans.

China has long attempted to hide information about the Dalai Lama from Tibetan citizens within its borders. As The Inquisitr reported last year, Chinese authorities cracked down on the Dalai Lama’s influence, actively censoring the internet and television in an effort to silence his message.

Communist party officials decried what they called the Dalai Lama’s “reactionary propaganda.” Chinese authorities reportedly confiscated illegal satellite dishes and increased efforts to monitor the telecommunications activity of the country’s citizens. The Dalai Lama responded to the Chinese censorship by calling it “immoral” after the government prevented him from attending Bishop Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday celebrations in person.

The Dalai Lama was speaking in Leh in order to confer Kalachakra, a process intended to empower his followers to reach enlightenment, according to his office. The speech is not the first time he has spoken out about the violence perpetrated by Buddhists in Myanmar. Last May, he addressed the subject while at a United States University, and he has previously authored a letter to Aung San Suu Kyi in which the Dalai Lama called for a halt to the violence.

[Image via indiatimes.com]