Russian Orthodox Church Explains Dalai Lama’s Lack of Invite to Summit

Back once again to Interfax, for yet more word on why the Dalai Lama was not invited to the recent World Summit of Religious Leaders, which took place in Moscow. On Friday I noted Metropolitan Kirill’s dubious explanation that

…the Dalai Lama was not invited so as not to jeopardise Tibetan Buddhists’ fragile negotiations with the Chinese government.

The decision was praised by Chinese State Administration for Religious Affairs Director Ye Xiaowen, who denounced the Dalai Lama for “dissident activities”; and by happy coincidence, Ye was also pleased to announce that the Russian Orthodox Church would soon be allowed to build a chapel in Beijing.

Now Kirill’s deputy Vsevolod Chaplin gives some further explanation:

According to Rev. Vsevolod, Dalai Lama was not invited to the World Religious Summit because the organizers could have found themselves in ‘a strange situation… as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would not grant him a visa.’

‘As granting of his visa was not guaranteed, we did not send him an official invitation. However, we would have been happy to welcome him,’ the priest underscored.

Apparently this unfortunate hitch could not be overcome, despite the participation in the Summit of both Vladimir Putin and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov.

The Dalai Lama last visited Russia two years ago, when he travelled unofficially to the Buddhist area of Kalmykia, to the great annoyance of China. Journalist Andrei Smirnov noted at the time that:

The Russian government allowed him to come despite the fact that his visit broke an informal Russian-Chinese agreement, namely: “We will support you on the issues of Tibet and Xinjiang (a northwestern Chinese province inhabited by Muslim minorities with strong separatist feelings) and you will support us on Chechnya.” Zhan Tsiyue, speaking on behalf of China’s Ministry of the Foreign Affairs, reminded Moscow of this agreement: “Beijing hopes that Russia will meet the commitments to the distinct position on the Tibet issue as they are defined in bilateral political documents” (strana.ru, November 30).

Smirnov suggests that Russia broke the agreement for the benefit of Kalmykia’s authoritarian governor Kirsan Ilumzhinov, who was able to use the visit to increase his own popularity.

But that was in 2004; 2006 has been officially designated as  “The Year of Russia in China“, and the two countries made a massive energy deal in March.

Meanwhile, Christopher Hitchens makes an interesting observation about Putin’s use of faith to bolster his international prestige:

Out of a thesaurus of possible nominations, one would have to select George Bush’s remarks about Vladimir Putin as the stupidest utterance of his entire presidency. Impressed beyond words by the fact that Putin was wearing a crucifix that had belonged to his mother and was thus a man of faith, our chief executive then burbled like a schoolgirl and said that he had looked into the man’s eyes and knew he was the one to trust. (I have not checked, but surely someone can discover how many times Putin has worn that crucifix since. It could be a sort of emblem of the fatuity of the “faith-based.”)

One Response

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