U.S. Religious Freedom Commissioner’s open letter to the Panchen Lama on his 28th birthday

Panchen Lama

The only existing photo of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama.

U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner Tenzin Dorjee has written an open letter to the Panchen Lama, to coincide with his April 25 birthday, in which he says, “my resolve to find you and restore you to your rightful role becomes stronger.”

The Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was recognized by the Dalai Lama in 1995, and soon thereafter he was taken away from his home by the Chinese authorities and has not been seen since. In his place, China selected another boy.

Commissioner Dorjee’s open letter begins with an emotional tone: “Even though it saddens me to think that you may never read this, every Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, on which I serve, is thinking of you on this special day.”

On April 6, 2017, as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoner of Conscience Project, Commissioner Dorjee announced his adoption of the Panchen Lama as the case that he will focus on.

The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) joins governments and concerned individuals across the world today in urging the Chinese authorities to declare the whereabouts and welfare of this important Tibetan religious leader.

For more information about the Panchen Lama and repression of religious freedom in Tibet see the ICT report “Cultural Genocide and the 11th Panchen Lama“.

Following is the full text of the open letter.

Open Letter from USCIRF Commissioner Tenzin Dorjee to the Panchen Lama on his Birthday (April 25)

For Immediate Release
April 25, 2017

Your Holiness Gedhun Choekyi Nyima:

Tashi Delek. I write to wish you a happy and healthy 28th birthday. Even though it saddens me to think that you may never read this, every Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, on which I serve, is thinking of you on this special day.

Ever since you were abducted as a young child at the age of six, the Chinese government has refused to share even basic information about you and your whereabouts. Please know that I think about you every day, and as each year passes, my resolve to find you and restore you to your rightful role becomes stronger.

By the age of 28, I had received both a Tibetan and modern education, as well as advanced Buddhist studies in the Tibetan diaspora in India. I would like to know more about you, especially about your well-being and the education you have received. I fear that the Chinese government has taken away your religious identity. I pray that you will one day be able to live a free life and take your rightful place as the 11th Panchen Lama.

Please know that it is my responsibility to advocate on your behalf, and for those others in China who are being persecuted because of their religious beliefs and activities.

On behalf of all Tibetans, most respectfully, I offer you the traditional mandala for your good health, and long life. I fervently pray for your freedom and receiving your blessing in person.

May you celebrate your 29th birthday, and every birthday thereafter, in freedom.

With deepest respect,
Tenzin Dorjee

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