The History of World Religions

To our friends of the Tibetan communities around the world,

We are writing to you today with a great wish for the continued success and growth of the Central Tibetan Administration and communities around the world. As you step into a new age, we understand the many challenges that you have struggled with in the last five decades as you reestablish your communities and leadership in places around the world. Your efforts are to be applauded.

However, we also believe that for a nation and its people to become truly progressive and compete on a global level, one needs to have a strong awareness of world history and issues, as well as a respect for the needs and freedoms of individuals.

We have recently come across some very powerful videos about some of the most unforgettable events in world history and current affairs. We would like to share them with you here, as an exchange of knowledge. We hope that this will help you in the development of your own policy and decision-making for the Tibetan people. It is important that we learn from the past, so we do not to make the same mistakes again in the future.

Below are six videos we have chosen specially for your viewing. We have also included here links to transcripts of each video for your easy reference. Below this are brief summaries of the videos with a few remarkable points of interest for you to consider and contemplate.

1. The Most Evil Men in History: Torquemada (of the Spanish inquisition)
Download transcript here

2. The Most Evil Women in History: Bloody Queen Mary of Scotland

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
Download transcript here

3. The Last Days: a documentary by Steven Spielberg
Download transcript here

4. Christian Persecution in Iran
Download transcript here

5. Christian Persecution in Egypt
Download transcript here

6. North Korea has the deadliest level of Christian persecution in the world
Download transcript here

As you will see from the first three videos, first-world developed nations – the UK, Spain, Germany and other major countries in Europe – had horrific histories and suffered many traumatic ordeals, pain and even thousands of cruel deaths. All this was done in the name of religion – to protect religion or to defend what they called religious purity.

The strength of these nations now lies in the fact that they have gone through horrific pasts and realized that such violent, unjust ways of suppression and conversion do not work and do not serve the people and country. These videos point to the evolutionary growth within these countries and the process that has led to them giving their citizens more freedom and personal power.

From the tragic events they suffered, these leading countries in the world now strongly promote and uphold personal freedoms – for example, the freedom of religion, speech and movement. When citizens of a free and truly democratic country have more freedoms, they are enabled, empowered and encouraged to do more for their country. They have the freedoms to learn and continuously explore new horizons. This is why these countries now produce such progressive and world-famous leaders, artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, innovators etc. Imagine how different things would be if they had not gone through such histories – what dark ages they would still be in and what limitations their people would still suffer.

In contrast, consider the last three videos on the list above, which documents the strong, violent religious persecution that is still happening in countries today around the world. Iran, Egypt and North Korean have been featured in news reports globally for their terrible abuse of human rights and for their obvious oppression, discrimination and violence towards religious minorities in their country.

Then, consider the state of those nations – they are not progressive, nor are they counted among the most successful countries in the world today. They are still in much need of progress, are far behind on development and suffer continuously from internal conflicts. Comparatively, these nations are not wealthy and there are very few opportunities in life for their citizens. In the case of Egypt, the leaders oppressed their people so much that they eventually all stood up and revolted against the leader Mubarak to force him out of power.

So which situation will it be for the Tibetans? The success enjoyed by the progressive, democratic First World countries? Or the oppressed and limited state of these other more backward, undemocratic countries? Unfortunately, we know that the modern freedoms of the First World are not observed nor enjoyed within the Tibetan communities around the world. The restrictions placed on people who practice the Protector Deity Dorje Shugden reflects the same kind of religious persecution found in these videos. They may not be as violent, but they come from the same basis: Shugden practitioners are not allowed to have freedom of religion and they are denied equal rights and liberties that are enjoyed by all other citizens.

The people supporting the ban of Dorje Shugden say that they are doing so to protect the Buddhadharma and preserve the purity of Buddhist practice. This sounds just like what Torquemada said during the Spanish Inquisition against the Jews, and what Queen Mary Tudor said to defend Catholicism as she killed hundreds of Protestant Christians. It is also what some Muslims are saying today as they destroy Christians in their countries.

People who do not give up the practice of Shugden are not given the basic freedoms and rights of all citizens – education, jobs in the CTA, medical aid and general welfare. They are not allowed to openly communicate or befriend non-Shugden practitioners. Many are even physical attacked or exiled out of the community. Isn’t this very similar to what the Jews and Protestants went through in the past? Isn’t it the same as what is happening now to Christians in places like Iran and Egypt? Just see the videos to see what discrimination they suffered or are still suffering. There are many similarities to what is happening right now with Shugden practitioners.

As you watch the videos, consider for a moment what it means to establish policies and carry out actions against your fellow people in the name of religion. Is this what religion teaches us to do? It is illogical to say we want to preserve religious purity, but we are engaging in acts that are opposite to what our religions teach. There is no religion in the world that encourages us to harm another person in any way.

We are not sending these videos and letters to you as a criticism or to insult you. We are sending this out of a concern and with care to help your administration to be more progressive, to care better for your Tibetan people. It is to help you to evolve faster, the same way that all these powerful countries have developed throughout history. It is to help you to become a very powerful people and nation, with powerful individuals who can contribute actively and freely to the world.

We have only good hopes for your administration leadership and wish you the best for your future as a leading nature in the world. Please do take the time to watch these videos and take heed of our sincere request to you to open your views to these histories of world religion. May these videos and this letter contribute to the further growth, openness and freedoms of your government and community.

Our best wishes,

Brief Summaries of the 6 Videos

The Most Evil Men In History: Torquemada

Torquemada was a Spanish Catholic monk who lived during the 15th century and became known for the “religious purity” he tried to create in Spain, by persecuting and expelling tens of thousands of Jews and Muslims. They were persecuted and suppressed only because of their religion. This is very similar to what is happening with the Dorje Shugden practitioners who are excluded from their community only because of they hold different religious views.

As Torquemada was very close with the King and Queen of the time, he even managed to convince them and the Pope – the Supreme head of the Catholics – to give him full power to do as he pleased, in the name of religion.

For years, Torquemada oversaw and instructed the cruel interrogation, torture and deaths of Jews and Muslims in Spain, just because they were of a different religion. Ironically, Torquemada himself came from a Jewish lineage.

Neighbors and families turned against each other, entire communities were humiliated and later forced to convert or be exiled. Anyone who showed any resistance would be mercilessly tortured and burnt alive.

“In the name of his religion, Torquemada forced almost every Jew out of Spain, destroying their lives forever.”

“Bolstered by Torquemada in March of that year, Ferdinand and Isabella issued and edict of expulsion that gave Spanish Jews until July to accept Baptism or leave the country. Its terrible words read: “We command all Jews and Jewesses of whatever age to depart from our said kingdoms and dominions with their sons, daughters, manservants and Jewish manservants, or they shall incur the penalty of death without further trial, declaration or sentence.”

“After we had been exiled from Spain, our ancestors have vowed never to go back to Spain because of the sufferings we suffered and for no reason either, just simply because you are a Jew.”

“Torquemada’s relentless pursuit of the conversos and the Jews would continue for another 6 years, as the Inquisitor General tortured, burned and expelled his way to a “pure” Christian Spain.”

The Most Evil Women in History: Bloody Queen Mary

Queen Mary lived at a time when the religious scene of England was changing dramatically. By her father’s decree, a new school of Christianity was emerging – Protestantism.

Queen Mary, a devout and devoted Catholic, developed an intense hatred for the Protestants, feeling that they were deviants of the real church. For most of her life, she and her mother, Queen Catherine of Aragon were grossly mistreated by her father, King Henry the 8th. It was this king who created this new Protestant Church which would allow him to divorce and remarry another 5 times. Queen Mary saw this as the highest kind of betrayal and would use the rest of her life planning revenge upon all Protestants.

When she finally rose to power as the ruling Queen, Bloody Mary did everything she could to restore the religious “purity” of Catholicism in England. Protestants everywhere were rounded up and burnt. In her 3 ½ year reign, she sent 300 people to be burned in the name of her religious fanaticism, believing that doing this was a way of preserving religious purity. In the name of religious purity, she had hundreds of people killed just because their religious views were different. This is just like what the Shugden people are suffering now when they are segregated and ostracized from their community because of their religious beliefs.

“Now she was queen, Mary would return her country to the Catholic fold by all means necessary. Protestant England was about to experience the revenge of Mary Tudor. After years of confusion, paranoia and turmoil, the Catholic Queen Mary Tudor was in the position to avenge her Protestant tormentors. In her eyes, the crimes against her have been committed in the name of the Church of England. She would purge the nation of its satanic presence.”

“The horrific ritual of burning at the stake prove a useful tool for Mary and her government. ‘They want other people to watch and think heresy is an illness within the body politic and it needs to be purged, it needs to be burnt out and destroyed.’”

“Mary’s plan to cleanse England of the Protestant curse, turned into a frenzy of killing. Hundreds were burnt to death. First the bishops, then Protestant preachers and even their families. Burnings took place in town squares all over the country. Those classed as heretics were killed without mercy.”

The Last Days: A Documentary by Steven Spielberg

This very moving documentary traces the journey of a five Hungarians who lived through the Holocaust of World War Two and survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. This was a time when the Nazis of Germany – under the leadership of Hitler – were gathering all Jews and racial minorities, and trying to exterminate them completely. (The Nazis were a very extreme, fascist political party that had come to power just before World War Two).

Hitler and his political party were obsessed with preserving the purity of the Aryan race, which he saw as superior. Therefore, this meant that he had to get rid of all other races that were regarded as “inferior”.

Millions of Jews and other minorities were rounded up and placed into large camps around Germany where they lived in poor, terrible conditions, made to work like slaves and mercilessly killed. It is estimated that 6 million Jews alone were killed during this time. Millions of other minorities – including disabled people and political opponents were also killed.

The Jews suffered all this torture, starvation and death all because of their religion. Doesn’t this sound like what is happening within the Tibetan Buddhist community, where Shugden practitioners are excluded, not given freedoms and even physically attacked because of their religion?

This documentary interviews 5 Jews from Hungary about their experiences during the time of the Nazis. It reveals the terrible ordeals they had to go through in the camps, seeing their families and friends being tortured and killed, and the traumas that have followed them for the rest of their lives. What kind of “purity” can we hope to achieve by doing so many terrible, impure acts to our fellow human beings?

“It was important to the [the Nazis] to kill the Jews than even winning the war.”

(Irene Zisblatt, 9.50mins)
“Most of them were people that we thought were our friends all these years, but they turned overnight on us, and went with the other side…”

(Irene Zisblatt, 13.34mins)
“Our friends, so-called, and neighbours, they were standing, lined up against the side of the road and they were yelling, ‘It’s about time. You go on out of here. We don’t need any Jews in our town. We need to get rid of all you Jews.’ I stood and I could not believe my eyes. The people I went to school with… their children. I went to school with their children, we were friends, we were sharing things together… Why are they so hostile? Why do they hate us all of a sudden?”

(Renee Firesome, 25.21mins)
“My mother was selected at the railroad station; gone to the left, while my sister and I went to the right. My mother was taken straight from the railroad station to the gas chambers. By the time my sister and I were processed into the camp, my mother as no longer alive.”

(Tom Lantos, 35.10mins)
“The sadism, the cruelty, the irrationality of the German and Hungarian Nazis of killing the remaining Jewish population when the war was all over, when they could have gained “brownie points” by being more civilized vis-à-vis these people, really was not present because their hatred was so blind.”

(Irene Zisblatt, 40:10mins)
“They took away my parents, they took my identity, they took away my siblings, they took away my possessions. There is something that they want from me. And then I thought of my soul and I said, “They’re not going to take my soul” and I decided right then and there, “I’m going to get up from this mud and I’m going to fight because I’m not going to become ashes.”

(Renee Firestone, 1:18:03mins)
“I don’t think that God created the Holocaust. I think that God gave us a mind, and a heart and free will, and it is up to man what he’s going to do with his life. And I blame man, not God.”

(Tom Lantos, 1:18:25mins)
“I cannot rationally explain, emotionally explain, intellectually explain the Holocaust. I cannot find a place for a higher authority in this nightmare.”

(Alice Lok Cahana, 1:18.44mins)
“What kind of people are we? What are the books teaching us? What is the difference between me and another child? What is the Bible teaching me? What is this about?”

“The Holocaust has to be taught as a chapter in the long history of man’s inhumanity to man. One cannot ignore the discrimination inflicted on many people because of race, colour or creed. One cannot ignore slavery. One cannot ignore the burning of witches. One cannot ignore the killing of Christians in the Roman period. The Holocaust is perhaps the culmination of the kind of horror that can occur when Man loses his integrity, his belief and the sanctity of human life.”

Christian Persecution in Iran

Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran is home to 75 million people, with 98% of the population adhering to Islam. At least 450,000 followers of Christ live in Iran but they are constantly harassed, attacked and suppressed for their religion.

Christianity is an officially recognised religion in Iran but in reality, many Christians face oppression from their neighbours. In Iran, converting from Islam to Christianity is an offence which can be punishable by death.

This is very similar to incidents within the Tibetan communities, where Dorje Shugden practitioners are harassed and mistreated by their fellow Tibetans. Just like Christians in Iran, Shugden practitioners live in fear that they will be attacked or kicked out of their communities just because of their religious beliefs.

(1.50 mins)
“Many people in the West are surprised to hear that in much of the Middle East, the majority of pressure against Christians comes from members of their own families. “The night that our family discovered that I’m a Christian and my wife is a Christian, they kicked us out of their house. For some time, we didn’t have any place and we were sleeping on the streets.”

(2.29 mins)
“Government and religion are the same in Iran so when you change religion, in one way you’re saying, ‘I’m rejecting your leadership in my life.’” The Iranian government won’t tolerate any form of opposition, or any form of grouping which is considered a threat to the Islamic Republic.”

(3.30 mins)
“The Iranian government imposes harsh punishments for anyone discovered to be a Christian, using violent tactics to pressure them to convert to Islam.”

Christian Persecution in Egypt

The Christian population of Egypt makes up 12.8% of the country’s population. Most of the Christians are known as Coptic people. This is a significant percentage but Christians remain a minority in a society that is very strongly Muslim.

The last 10 years have seen high levels of violence and terrible discrimination against what are called the Coptic Christians. It is not uncommon for girls to be raped, for Christian celebrations to be attacked by drive-by shootings and for Christians to be indiscriminately killed just because of their religion.

Harassment, discrimination and financial incentives for Christians to adopt Islam are also used to break the strength of the Christians. Although the country’s constitution allows freedom of conversion, Muslims converting to Christianity are not able to change their religion or their name on their identification cards. Without this change, Christian women remain designated as Muslims and are unable to marry Christian men.

This discrimination is very similar to what the Dorje Shugden practitioners experience. Shugden practitioners cannot marry or be friends with non-Shugden people. The Egyptian government claims that there is freedom of conversion but this is not true, as you see in the video. Similarly, the CTA claim that the Tibetans have freedom to choose whether they practice Shugden or not, but in reality, this is not the case: people who choose Shugden are not permitted any of the usual rights and freedoms of other citizens. What kind of “choice” is this?

(1.00 min)
“Although Christians and Muslims have lived in relative peace in Egypt, in recent decades, religiously-motivated violence against the Christian minority has been escalating.”

(5.29 mins)
“So if I was a Coptic wanting to become a Muslim, they’re free to do that. But to go the other way, you can’t do that. You can’t leave Islam, and join the Coptic Church or the Baptist Church, or an Evangelical Church or Presbyterian Church. It’s not permitted in their society.”

(6.22 mins)
“Mohammed Hijazi’s case, it caused quite a stir in the media, where you had Islamic leaders coming out and saying this man must be insane, and his own father said he would kill him.”

(8.19 mins)
“We don’t have anything to defend ourselves except through prayer, fasting and good will. And that’s it.”

North Korea has the deadliest level of Christian persecution in the world

North Korean today continues to be run as a total dictatorship under the rule of Kim Jong-Il and his father Kim Il-Sung. Christian groups around the world consider this country the worst place in the world for Christians to live with the worst and most deadly kind of persecution.

Because the North Koreans are encouraged to “worship” nobody except their country’s leaders, any religious belief or worship of any one else could mean someone is killed – not just the individual but three generations of his family will be killed. The North Koreans are taught to view their leader like a God, and that everything he says must be followed or they will suffer grave and terrible consequences. Even speaking about their religion or being caught with any religious items on them can mean an immediate death without trial.

All this is happening right now as we speak in North Korea.

Isn’t this very similar to what is happening with Dorje Shugden practitioners? They suffer just like the Koreans: if a man practices Shugden, his whole family is excluded from society and denied any rights. Everyone is forced to accept what the Dalai Lama has stated even if he is not their Guru. This is like the North Koreans forcing everyone to “worship” their dictator leader Kim Jong-Il and persecuting people who choose to follow a different belief.

(3.19 mins)
“Today, an estimated 40,000 Christians are being held in North Korean prison camps. One out of every 10 Christians in this country is suffering cruel imprisonment.”

(3.38 mins)
“There were two of us who escaped. We were looking for a way to provide food for our family. The vast majority of people are extremely hungry. But Christians are the last to receive any allowance for foods. Everyone uses the black market to survive. My younger brother was taken by immigration authorities. Since then, no one has heard about where they took him or even if he is still alive.”

(5.54 mins)
“In North Korea, Christians constantly fear being discovered. There is severe punishment if they are found guilty. That’s huge because it means death! The North Korean government can’t stand Christians worshipping God since they force people to worship Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il as their gods.”

(10.49 mins)
“Many in the West are not aware of the suffering endured by North Korean brothers and sisters. In North Korea, if people believe in God and are caught by the Kim Jong-Il government, they are killed along with three generations of their family.”

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.…Instead of turning away people who practise Dorje Shugden, we should be kind to them. Give them logic and wisdom without fear, then in time they give up the ‘wrong’ practice. Actually Shugden practitioners are not doing anything wrong. But hypothetically, if they are, wouldn’t it be more Buddhistic to be accepting? So those who have views against Dorje Shugden should contemplate this. Those practicing Dorje Shugden should forbear with extreme patience, fortitude and keep your commitments. The time will come as predicted that Dorje Shugden’s practice and it’s terrific quick benefits will be embraced by the world and it will be a practice of many beings.

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