05/10/2017, 13.40
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Nepal marks Buddha's birthday under tight security to prevent protests by Tibetans

by Christopher Sharma

Celebrations are held in Lumbini, birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, and in well-known monasteries. Police have orders to closely monitor refugees. “We stand with Dalai Lama in demanding religious freedom," a Tibetan said.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Today is the 2,561st anniversary of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, the Indian ascetic who founded Buddhism, and Nepal is marking his birthday under tight security

As local elections approach (14 May), Nepali authorities have deployed police wherever Buddha celebrations are scheduled in order to prevent Tibetan refugees from protesting against China and its repression of the Dalai Lama’s followers.

"We received orders to monitor closely the activities of Tibetan Buddhist refugees living in Nepal,” said R. B. Tamang, a policeman deployed at the Boudha monastery in Kathmandu. “We have been ordered to intervene even during prayers and rallies in the stupa in case of anti-China protests."

Tendi Lama, a Tibetan refugee, complained of discriminatory attitudes by law enforcement. "When agents find out that we are refugees, they prevent us from participating in prayers and from getting together. We pretend to be Nepali to enter the stupa.”

Refugees, he said, live under the constant threat of violence and torture. "A few months ago the police dispersed one of our prayer meetings, beating us, and warned us not to pray at mass gatherings."

"Even if we are a minority, we have the right to celebrate the Buddha's birthday and pray for our Tibet," he noted.

What is more, he added, refugees have lived in Nepal for many years, where they have created families, "but the government does not recognise the right to religious freedom. We stand with Dalai Lama in demanding religious freedom and pray for Tibet and our community."

On the occasion of the Vesakh festival, which marks several events in the Buddha’s life (birth, illumination, and death), the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue sent a message stressing the "urgent need" of Christians and Buddhists to walk together on the path of peace.

In Nepal celebrations take place in Lumbini, the Buddha’s birthplace, and in other well-known monasteries such as Boudha and Soyambhu.

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