‘Remember the suffering brought by the changing times to the people of the snowland, the people endowed with history, courage and a sense of national responsibility. Remember their unflinching determination and let us continue to develop our own sense of national responsibility’.
The Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso
April 30, 2000
Rangzen is a Tibetan word meaning 'Freedom'. For Tibetans it also is synonymous with the struggle for a free and autonomus Tibet. A struggle rooted in non-violence, love and compassion but one that looks more impossible by the day.
In 1950 China invaded Tibet. The occupation that ensued was undertaken through brutal oppression, destruction and degradation with actions and policies aimed at destroying the traditional Tibetan way of life and wiping out the national identity of its people.
Tens of thousands were forced to flee, the majority following their spiritual leader - the Dalai Lama -into exile in the Northern Himalayan region of India. Undertaking gruelling and dangerous journeys through the Himalayas - not only battling extreme conditions but also having to evade detection, capture and certain imprisonment or torture at the hands of Chinese authorities.
Today there are over 150,000 Tibetans refugees living in exile worldwide with the vast majority in neighbouting India, Nepal and Bhutan.
Now we stand on the precipice of another tragedy. A more subtle and insidious one but one just as grave; the death of a generation. A generation of people who still remember Tibet before the Chinese invaded and who are still are alive to tell the stories.
China’s stranglehold over this peaceful nation continues unabated till today. As Tibetans continue their flight from Tibet to India or Nepal and then scatter further away from the physical land of Tibet, the conversations on identity and culture become more crucial and complex.
These people are Tibetan. These are their stories. Hear their voices.