Marking the 85th birthday of the 14th Dalai Lama on Monday, representatives of the Tibet Support Group of the Riigikogu, the Estonian Institute of Human Rights and the Estonian Institute of Buddhism as well as two-time former prime minister Mart Laar and former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves signed a letter in which they called on authorities and people in economics not to conclude agreements with an authoritarian country that may mean short-term gains, but also long-term damages.
On July 6, 85 years ago, the 14th Dalai Lama was born in Tibet; it is a pleasure to celebrate this day today. This is, after all, far from simply a religious or political figure, but rather a citizen of the world who has, during his lifetime, attempted to foster peace, compassion and mutual understanding in various people — regardless of their national, geographic or other origin.
The Dalai Lama is rather an icon which symbolizes understanding between various cultures and values; he is an icon that acts as a bridge and reducer of hate, although he has always also been a target for state systems in which the aforementioned is rather condemned or even outright hated.
The people of Tibet, whom the Dalai Lama represents, are far from the only repressed linguistic and values group that wants to preserve nothing but its historical convictions, traditions and stories in a time when all things small are tending to die out or are purposefully destroyed.
Large imperiums' willingness to learn is slow, and so it is historically frequently the case that individual peculiarities to start small and from which that same large had its start must often fall back before meaningless and immutable force.
Is it, then, immutable? Perhaps not.
Today we are not thinking simply of the Dalai Lama, who has visited Estonia three times and who very much loves even our small country, but also of the Uighurs, a repressed people on the territory of the same major country whose women's congress, attended by Rebiya Kadeer, likewise took place here in 2011. We are thinking of many small people.
How can any small people be a threat to the everyday existence of an autocracy, an imperium or a hard-handed system? It likely in no way can. And yet — this is how we are used to describing the existence of small peoples, as it goes against the desire for omnipotence.
Because how could the existence of a small peoples enrich superpower and bureaucratic weakness? Not at all.
But the culture of a territorial superpower, which could be spiritually open? In every way.
In reality, the large and strong are always supported by the more fragile, just as cells form a bigger organism.
Today we state that Uighurs and Tibetans are not fighting with China or Finno-Ugrians with Russia; we are simply trying to exist — without interference into our language, traditions or customs. And at our own expense, not anyone else's.
The question is a matter of state: an abundance of cultures, or uniformity?
With this letter, we are, among other things, calling on the authority, governmental, state and business sectors to note the significant crossroads at which we currently stand. To note this moment, in which everything can come back to a favorable deal in the blink of an eye, but consider whether new wills-o'-the-wisp and fast technology outweigh human lives and extinction.
If this affected us personally, we'd know right that moment: they don't. As soon as it doesn't affect us here and now, however, we are capable of retreating — things aren't like that here!
But they are.
The Dalai Lama left politics, and so this letter dedicated to his birthday likewise isn't political in nature. But he has not retreated from the future, just like all cultures. And after the small retreats, the large retreats as well, and all that is left is the cabinet and a favorable deal which destroys species, whether plant, animal or linguistic.
Be smart, dear authorities, ministers, influential people and the economic sector! Don't trade in the entire future for one deal; be reasonable, and review the point behind each business or situational policy deal with an authoritarian state background at which standard human or even entire people's rights are disregarded. Don't conclude short-sighted contracts which may mean short-term gains, but also long-term damages. Not one major and sudden deal is one-sided or doesn't come at later, possibly grievous cost. We call on you to prioritize current interests and political comfort below your own culture. This is our current opportunity, which we won't be seeing again.
We recall that it was with Estonia and Tibet that the global Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization was launched under the direction of Linnart Mäll in 1991, and with the support and approval of today's jubilarian, the Dalai Lama. May it be a positive symbol of cooperation between us, the small. And once again: happy birthday and long may you live, dear Dalai Lama.
- Vootele Hansen (chairman), Juku-Kalle Raid, Andres Herkel and Aet Kukk on behalf of the Estonian Institute of Human Rights
- Sven Grünberg on behalf of the Estonian Institute of Buddhism
- MPs Eerik-Niiles Kross, Yoko Alender, Ruuben Kaalep and Paul Puustusmaa on behalf of the Tibet Support Group of the Riigikogu
- Märt Läänemets on behalf of the Estonian Academic Oriental Society
- Former two-time prime minister Mart Laar
- Former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves (2006-2016)
Editor: Aili Vahtla