[Friday, March 14, 2008 – Toronto, Canada] Amid reports streaming in from all major news outlets about fresh uprisings and revolts erupting all across Tibet, Tibetans in Toronto gathered in front of the Chinese Consulate building to perform “sangsol” (prayer ceremony) in solidarity with those that are being detained and hurt in the clashes.
More than seventy Tibetans and some Tibetan supporters gathered at noon in front of the local Chinese consulate as new updates kept coming in from Tibet, India and Nepal about the escalation of the tension and violence in those areas. The last-minute gathering, which was organized by the Joint Action Committee (JAC), was a much more sombre affair compared to the raucous crowd that had protested in the area just four days ago for the Tibetan National Uprising Day. A hushed tone of prayers and murmurings resonated through the crowd as they sat cross-legged on mats, behind steel barricades that the police have set up in response to the unprecedented action by the two Tibetan Canadian youth who scaled the consulate roof and waved the Tibetan flag from atop.
Sonam Dorjee, executive member of the JAC, expressed his gratitude to those that had gathered on such late notice, and also voiced his outrage towards the violent crackdowns being exercised on the Tibetans inside Tibet by the Chinese troops and police. He addressed the crowd in both Tibetan and English, and urged the Indian officials to release the Tibetan marchers that were being detained in India.
“Our hearts and prayers are with the brave Tibetan brothers and sisters who continue to defy the illegal authority of China over them,” said Mr. Dorje. “There is an urgency that is now sweeping our movement and catapulting it into the international spotlight. Let us use this opportunity to pressure the Chinese and expose the world of the brutal crimes against humanity being perpetrated in Tibet and China.”
Four Tibetan monks led the ceremony with prayers for the protection of those who are being arrested in Tibet, for the health of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and for the peaceful resolution of the recent events.
“Buddhism is a core aspect of the Tibetan identity”, said one of the monks who asked not to be identified. “The Chinese have tried so hard for so many years to wipe our culture away — it becomes understandable when the frustrations boil over to such an extent that the Tibetans resort to violence in Tibet.”
“The monks and nuns in Tibet feel like their time for justice is slipping away. The demonstrations in monasteries over the past few days show the world how badly China has been curbing our right to practice our own religion and, in effect, trying to marginalize and even eradicate our culture.”
After about two hours of prayers, the crowd stood up to perform the end-ritual of the ceremony. Handfuls of ground barley were shared among the people; after which they chanted the last concluding prayers, raised their hands with the barley powder, and then flung it in the air with cheers of “Lho Gyalo”. This act of tossing the ground barley in the air is an act of warding away evil omens and calls for the protection and well-being of those concerned.
The Tibetans in Toronto have had a busy week since the rally on Monday, March 10. The community has been abuzz with the reports of actions from all over the world; and tomorrow, Saturday, March 15, at the local Parkdale library at 10 am, they prepare to felicitate and honour the two youth who climbed the Chinese consulate building, and in a matter of minutes, symbolized the dissent and energy of an independence movement that has been going on for nearly fifty years now.