Thursday, March 27, 2008

Exodus and Tibet

Thursday, March 27, 2008 -- Thursday of Holy Week

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, page 959)
Psalms 146, 147 (morning) 148, 149 (evening)
Exodus 13:3-10
1 Corinthians 15:41-50
Matthew 28:16-20

Rites and rituals are so important. They help us remember who we are. They recall to the present key elements of our heritage. Right in the middle of the narrative about the Hebrew's great Exodus from Egypt, we read the instructions for the keeping of the Festival of Passover. For seven days you will eat unleavened bread to remind you of the haste with which your ancestors fled Egypt. On the seventh day there shall be a Passover festival to the Lord. The Seder supper is structured as a ritual reminder, teaching God's people about their liberation from Egypt and reminding them to be a people conscious of freedom.

Being able to practice our rites and rituals is important to our identity as a people. Being faithful to our practice is important to our health as a people.

It strikes me that at the heart of this story of Exodus is the desire of a people to worship. Moses asks Pharaoh to let God's people go, that they may worship. Pharaoh refuses. Also at the center of the story is the oppression that the people suffer under Pharaoh. They cry out because they suffer from both an economic and a cultural oppression.

We see a similar cry for liberation today from the people of Tibet. If anything, the oppression of China toward Tibet is even more radical than that of Pharaoh toward the Hebrew people. In 1950 armed forces from China invaded Tibet and annexed it into the Peoples' Republic of China. By 1962 only 70 of the original 2500 monasteries were left after 93% of the monks had been forced out. Chinese immigrants have flooded into Tibet, displacing the native people and taking control of the economic and political structures. The systematic oppression of Tibetan religion and traditions has been called "cultural genocide."

In a particularly cruel act, thirteen years ago (1995) the Chinese kidnapped a six year old boy who had been identified as the next Panchen Lama. He has not been seen since; he would be just over 18 years old now. We remember that Pharoah also aimed his violence at the vulnerable children of the Hebrews.

The Dalai Lama is the traditional spiritual and political leader of Tibet. He fled his homeland in 1958 during an unsuccessful uprising against Chinese rule. The Dalai Lama has accepted Chinese sovereignty over Tibet while insisting that Tibetans have actual autonomy over their religious and cultural life. Tibetans wish to be able to practice their religion and to observe their cultural rites and rituals. That is the demand recently expressed in marches and demonstrations on the eve of the Beijing Olympics.

This cry for religious and cultural freedom should be familiar to our ears. It is a motivation that we understand as Americans because so many of our ancestors came to this land seeking such freedoms. Shouldn't all the world be rising with the Tibetans to cry out against the oppression they suffer? What would happen if the world community let China know its participation in our economy and its place on the international stage was dependent upon its behavior toward Tibet? What if our neighbors in Bentonville used the leverage of the world's largest company, looking for suppliers other than China until they grant religious and cultural autonomy to Tibet. If the world demanded, might it be possible for the Dalai Lama to return to his home and worship at his own monastery for the first time in fifty years?

May a new Exodus for Tibet be part of our prayers during this season of Pascha and Passover. Ask God to do for Tibet what God has done for the Hebrew people. "Moses said to the people, 'Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.'"


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About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117

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St. Paul's Episcopal Church
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At 10:22 AM, Blogger The Underground Pewster said...

I remember we had a "Traditional Seder Supper" once at our church. I think we changed the rules as would be typical in most Episcopal churches, we did not require the males to be circumcised (as we read yesterday in
Exodus 12:48-49):
"48If an alien who resides with you wants to celebrate the passover to the Lord, all his males shall be circumcised; then he may draw near to celebrate it; he shall be regarded as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it; 49there shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you." I hope the presence of the uncircumcised did not get our Jewish friends in trouble.
As far as Tibet goes, wouldn't our Buddhist friends want us to follow a path of non-violent resistance in helping their quest for freedom?

At 2:49 PM, Anonymous Sterling Tucker said...

The Tibetans are as peaceful and spiritual people as you are likely to find on the face of the earth.
What the Chinese have done to them is indeed a travesty. You would think the world would have cried out in outrage at what has occurred over the past 57 years.

Some additional facts: Tibet, at least 1,400 years old, is one of the world's oldest nations, has its own language, and its own ethnicity. Over 1 million of its people have been killed by the Chinese and its culture has been systematically obliterated. Those monks you spoke of have been tortured, murdered or exiled.

Alas, Tibet is a poor nation. It doesn't have oil, or you can bet the U.S. would be "liberating" them from China. Because world politics "follows the money", don't expect the West to stand up to China, in defense of Tibet.

China has nuclear weapons, $1 trillion U.S. dollars, an increasingly powerful army and navy, and 1.2 billion people.

Tibet has the Dalai Lama.

And especially don't expect our neighbors to the north to raise a finger to take issue with the Chinese, with which they are inextricably linked. Remember, they are following the money too, and giving it all to the Chinese.


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