Lama invited to speak at Wits

2011-10-01 08:11

Tibet’s Dalai Lama has been invited to deliver a public lecture at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) on October 12, the university said yesterday.

“He will address students, staff members, guests, and the media on Non-violence in the New Century: The Way Forward,” it said in a statement.

This would be his second visit to Wits in the past 10 years, subject to him being granted a visa by the South African government.

The visit would be hosted by Wits, the Gandhi Centenary Committee, One Young World, and Afrika Tikkun.

“We would encourage the South African government not to silence the voice of the Dalai Lama,” said Wits vice-chancellor and principal Professor Loyiso Nongxa.

“We should welcome the opportunity to host him in South Africa and we should allow all voices to be heard in our democracy – a right for which we have fought with our lives,” he said.

In the event of a visa not being secured by the Dalai Lama, inspirational speakers would lead conversation and an on-screen presentation of his “inspirational words”.

The lecture was aimed at celebrating youth, inter-faith dialogue, non-violence, and non-violent methods of protest, Wits said.

It would be held in conjunction with the missing millennium development goal campaign to end violence in the name of religion – a One Young World project on inter-faith dialogue and development.

The Dalai Lama has applied for a visa after being invited by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu to attend his 80th birthday celebrations on October 8.

He was refused entry into the country two years ago.

Tutu has warned that the government would “shoot itself in the foot” by again refusing his fellow Nobel Peace laureate entry into South Africa.

In 2009, South Africa refused to grant the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader a visa to visit the country to attend a peace conference, for fear of jeopardising ties with China, a key trade partner.

The DA has accused government of passing the buck on who should decide whether the Dalai Lama should get a visa.

“This is clearly a home affairs issue, and the department should treat his application like any other,” DA spokesperson Masizole Mnqasela said.

On Thursday night, a home affairs spokesperson said on television that the Dalai Lama’s visa application was a foreign affairs issue.

“But this makes no sense,” said Mnqasela.

“This is not an official state visit by the Tibetan spiritual leader, and so requires no input from the minister of international relations.”

A night vigil is to be held at Parliament on Monday to press for the granting of the Dalai Lama’s visa.

About 300 people were expected to attend the night vigil, said Karen de Vos, a Buddhist teacher who attended a news briefing in Cape Town by civil rights groups.

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since fleeing Tibet during a failed uprising in 1959.

He accepts Chinese rule, but Beijing accuses him of being a separatist and opposes his regular meetings with foreign leaders. 

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