Protests continue today as Dalai Lama visits Alabama Theatre, Regions Field | AL.com
BIRMIMNGHAM, Alabama -- Protests continued today in the heart of Downtown Birmingham as hundreds gathered outside the Alabama Theatre where the Dalai Lama took part in an interfaith "Beyond Belief" moderated discussion.
Their chants could be heard beyond the intersection at 3rd Avenue North and 19th Street where they convened this morning in support of religious freedom for those who pray to the Buddhist deity Dorje Shugden.
"False Dalai Lama! Give religious freedom!" they chanted. Bold red and black signs danced in the hands of the more than 200 protesters along to the rhythm of beating drums. Words like "hypocrisy," "ostracism" and "stop lying" pierced the blue sky.
The protesters -- brought together by the California-based non-profit International Shugden Community (ISC) -- claim that the Dalai Lama has persecuted the members of that group and caused them to be mistreated and ostracized in Tibetan exile communities around the world, including India and the United States.
Many have traveled around the world following the Dalai Lama on his various tours, said ISC spokesperson Len Foley, who himself flew in from California with his family to take part in the protest.
"We are here on behalf of a silent majority of millions of people who have felt the pain of religious persecution," he said. "This is the most important issue in our lives."
Members of the Shugden sect, said Foley, have been barred from many businesses, monasteries and hospitals in Tibetan communities. Signs hang outside business throughout India, he said, that forbid entrance to anyone who practices Dorje Shugden.
The group, he said, is asking the Dalai Lama--who they call the "worst dictator in this modern day"--to accept the following four points:
To allow anyone who wishes to practice Dorje Shugden the freedom to do so.
To stop completely the discrimination against Shugden practitioners
To allow all Shugden monks and nuns who have been expelled to return to their monasteries and nunneries, and to receive the same material and spiritual rights as non-Shugden practitioners
To write to Tibetan communities throughout the world telling them that they should apply practically the three above points
Foley said protests will continue this afternoon at Regions Field, where the Dalai Lama is scheduled to give a talk on the "Secular Ethics in our Time." From here, many of the protesters, he said, plan to follow the Dalai Lama when he travels to the Northeast to the areas of Princeton, Boston and New York.