The upcoming World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates finds itself in the midst of raging controversy after a few of the attendees to the conference have decided against participating. Six Nobel laureates, including American activist Jody Williams, Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee, Yemeni journalist Tawakkol Karman, and Northern Irish activist Mairead Maguire, have all decided against attending the summit because the South African government refused to grant a visa to the Dalai Lama.
According to the Business Insider, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet was denied the visa owing to pressure from China, which sees Dalai Lama as a campaigner for Tibetan independence.
Rachel Vincent, communications director for the Canada-based Nobel Women’s Initiative, who announced the decision of the six women laureates, tells French agency AFP, “The Dalai Lama advocates a nonviolent, negotiated solution to the Tibet problem.”
The decision to boycott the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates comes weeks after a group of 14 Nobel peace laureates sent a letter to South African President Jacob Zuma that pressed him to grant the Dalai Lama the visa for the summit. However, their attempts seem to have fallen on deaf ears. The Nobel laureates now accuse China of putting pressure on other nations to restrict the movement of the Dalai Lama.
At this stage, it is unclear whether other Nobel peace laureates would be joining in the boycott. In fact, the organizers of the summit add that, so far, they haven’t received any communication from the six women who have decided to boycott the summit.
The World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates is scheduled to be held from October 13 to October 15. The decision to hold the event in South Africa was due to the fact that it is home to four Nobel peace laureates: Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, F. W. De Klerk, and Albert Luthuli. In the past, the summit were held in several other cities – including Warsaw, Rome, Chicago, and Paris. Meanwhile, the stoic silence on part Desmond Tutu, who also happens to be a longtime friend of the Dalai Lama, has surprised several South Africans. Tutu’s spokesperson asked the press to contact the mayor of the host city, Patricia de Lille, for official statements.
Patricia De Lille says in a statement, “South African laureates have written to all invitees encouraging them to attend in the interests of strengthening the global peace dialogue, and to send a message that the South African government’s appalling treatment of the Dalai Lama will not go unchallenged.”
However, the erstwhile president of South Africa De Klerk — who is also a Nobel laureate as mentioned earlier — is not in favor of the boycott of the event by the six ladies.
“I think the message has gone out that boycotting the summit would be the very worst way of protesting”, said Dave Steward, executive director of the FW de Klerk Foundation.
All said, let us remind you that this is not the first time that the Dalai Lama, who is known to be a world ambassador for peace, has been barred from entering South Africa. It has happened twice in the past, the last time in 2011.
[Image Via Wikimedia Commons]