Maryland, US — The political leader of Tibetans, Dr Lobsang Sangay has been bestowed with the Presidential Medal by Salisbury University in Maryland, US, "in recognition of his esteemed political leadership and his work to seek a peaceful, non-violent resolution for Tibet."
According the Salisbury University in Maryland, the prestigious Presidential Medal, the highest honor awarded by the University to an individual for leadership and forward thinking.
Quoting Janet Dudley-Eshbach, the president of Salisbury University, it said "the medal was dedicated to the sufferings of the Tibetan people, and the non-violent Tibetan movement to restore freedom and dignity across Tibet."
"It sends a powerful message to Tibetans inside Tibet that there are friends outside Tibet who are with justice, who stands for human rights and the freedom of the Tibetan people," Sangay said at the awards' ceremony at the university on Tuesday.
"At the same time, it sends a message to the Chinese government that they should embrace the peaceful and re-conciliatory spirit of the Tibetan people and solve the issue of Tibet." Sikyong said, adding "it is also a message to a world beset with violent conflicts that peace and harmony can only be brought about through non-violence."
Sikyong also recalled the dual Buddhist notions of impermanence and attachment. "As a human being, we all are born to die. However, while you live, you can make a difference. That's what makes life worth living," he said.
The Tibetan political leader also made a pun on the Buddhist philosophy of attachment with cyber security, jokingly explaining that if Buddha were to receive an email today, he would say, no attachments, please.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a long-time friend of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, also congratulated Sangay. Tutu said that Sangay got the honour at a time when there is so much turmoil and suffering caused by violence and unrest.
"I am delighted to write this short note to congratulate you on receiving the President's Medal for promoting peace and understanding, especially at this time when we see so much turmoil and suffering caused by violence and unrest," he said in a letter to Dr Sangay.
"The world has been stunned by the number of refugees seeking to flee violence and unrest. Our world needs more champions of peace and goodwill of which you are one," he wrote.
Speaking on the theme of the lecture series " one person can make a difference" Sikyong spoke about his personal journey from a small obscure hamlet near Darjeeling to the base of the Central Tibetan Administration.
Speaking on the topic of his presentation 'Democracy and the Third Way', he talked about His Holiness the Dalai Lama's vision and gift of democracy to the Tibetan people and spoke about the evolution and maturation of Tibetan democracy in exile.
He also spoke about Tibet as the third pole, expounding on the importance of protecting the fragile environment of the Tibetan plateau and asserted that preservation of the Tibetan plateau is vital to climate change and the other ills of rapid environmental degradation not just in Asia but also in the world.
Speaking about the Middle Way Approach which seeks a genuine autonomy for Tibet within China, Sikyong said "the Middle Way Approach is the third alternative of conflict resolution." He explained that "the present repressive policies in Tibet is unacceptable while at the same time, Tibetans do not seek independence from China if Tibetans are granted genuine autonomy."
He also highlighted that Tibetans follow Ahimsa, the Gandhian notion of non-violence to resolve the issue of Tibet. "Under Chinese occupation, Tibetans are facing political repression, environmental destruction, cultural assimilation, social discrimination and economic marginalization. In spite of all these repression, Tibetans are still following non-violence to fulfill their aspirations of freedom and justice," Sikyong said.
"Despite the Central Tibetan Administration's repeated appeals not to resort to drastic actions, at least 142 Tibetans have burned themselves in protest. Their unanimous demands have been the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet and freedom for Tibetans," Sikyong said expressing his grave concern at the wave of Tibetan self-immolation protests.
"Life is precious. Even if someone slaps you, you don't like it. Therefore, when Tibetans from all walks of life are willingly burning themselves to death, it reflects the seriousness of the situation, the difficulty of life inside Tibet," he added.
Sikyong said that the peaceful Tibetan movement of non-violence resonates with the trends of democracy and harmonious co-existence with each other. "And when the Tibetan movement succeeds, which I know it will, it will be one of the best stories of the 21st century."