Category Archives: Dalai Lama

Yes, The News Is Good

As Christians celebrate the risen Christ it is a period to remember that the news is good, not bad. The victory is won, the strongholds have been defeated. So at a time when the news media seem to be relaying little but relentless disaster, it is worth looking instead at some good news.

One of my local newspapers, The Australian, has an excellent article on Easter celebrations in China, where, despite repression, the church seems to be continuing its remarkable growth.

The report focused on two Beijing congregations, the Zhushikou Protestant Church in the south of the city and the magnificent baroque Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

A rock band at the former church was leading 300 young worshippers. The lead singer, Gao Liang, a convert of three years, was prominently wearing a WWJD – What Would Jesus Do? – badge.

At the cathedral – which actually maintains a daily Latin mass – a young congregation of 600 packed the building, with a large screen placed outside for the overflow audience.

The report noted that churches in China seemed especially attractive to those in their 20s and 30s, and it quoted one worshipper who said they came “to seek truth and genuineness, to think, and to find belief.”

The writer of the article, Rowan Callick, is Asia-Pacific Editor with The Australian and also an Anglican lay preacher in my city, Melbourne.

In his report he noted pointedly: “An estimated 100 million people in China have already become Christians – more than the 84 million in the ruling Communist Party. As a result more people worship in China on a typical Sunday than attend all the churches in Europe combined.”

The growth of the church in China is of course not news. I have written about it many times.

Some years ago, when the Dalai Lama paid a visit to Australia, the newspapers were full of stories about the modest growth of Buddhism in this country. I contacted a newspaper editor and suggested a story, that I would write, on what I thought a far more significant phenomenon – the stunning number of Chinese migrants to Australia who were turning to Jesus, very often from a non-religious background.

Take a drive around Melbourne and it is truly inspiring to see how many churches have billboards outside in both English and Chinese. My own Baptist church runs English, Cantonese and Mandarin services, and Chinese worshipper numbers are growing much faster than the English side.

But the editor was not interested. Christians are seldom considered newsworthy, unless they are involved in scandal.

Indeed, “if it bleeds, it leads,” is a common newspaper maxim, and the media this Easter have of course been full of stories about the ghastly, bloody events in Brussels. So it is certainly an appropriate time for us to reflect on those packed Easter-time churches in China – where Christianity was outlawed not so long ago – and to remind ourselves that, yes, the news is good.

Buddhist Extremists and My Novels

Military Orders - Smashwords Cover Jan 2013So you haven’t heard of Dorje Shugden, the extremist Buddhist group now in the news for their opposition to the Dalai Lama. Well, that’s not my fault. For I made them the villains of my thriller “Military Orders.”

The title of a lengthy post this week on the Foreign Affairs website sums up the group – “Meet the Buddhists Who Hate the Dalai Lama More Than the Chinese Do.”

That’s what happens when you write novels that are based on current events. These events are apt to overtake your novels.

I have already written about how soccer riots in Egypt mirror events in my thriller “The Coptic Martyr of Cairo” and how the burning of churches in West Africa was foreshadowed by my novel “Festival in the Desert.”

A few excerpts from the Foreign Affairs post sum up its tone:

Dorje Shugden is an obscure trickster spirit, believed to have originated in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, in the 17th century. And though the spirit’s followers in the Western world probably number only a few thousand, they’ve been surprisingly successful at generating attention for themselves and their campaign to discredit the Dalai Lama. 

…Besides protesting the Dalai Lama during his trips to the United States and Europe, Shugden followers produce websites filled with anti-Dalai Lama material and write and distribute pamphlets, articles, and books denouncing the Dalai Lama. Consider, for example, “The False Dalai Lama: The Worst Dictator in the Modern World,” published in October 2013.

The book describes its purpose as helping people to “understand the deceptive nature” of the Dalai Lama, who stands accused of “destroying pure Buddhism in this world.” If that weren’t enough, it depicts the Tibetan spiritual leader as a “Muslim” who is firmly in the grip of a “fascination with war and Nazism.”

One might think, given Beijing’s well-known hostility toward the Tibetan spiritual leader, that the book is a work of calumny sponsored by the ruling Chinese Communist Party. But its publishers are, in fact, enthusiastic Buddhists. Specifically, the International Shugden Community, a California-based organization representing a small religious sect whose members worship Dorje Shugden, and whose website claims its mission is “exposing the dark side of the Dalai Lama.”

My thriller “Military Orders“ has a somewhat fantastical plot about a plan by a Christian church to “hijack” the next selection of a Dalai Lama – after the current incumbent dies – and install in his place a secret Christian. During my research for the book I learned about Dorje Shugden, and they seemed to fit my plot perfectly – opposed to the Dalai Lama, but also no friends of Christians. They made excellent villains.

Expect them to appear in the news again, especially once the current Dalai Lama dies.

And this time you will have heard of them.

Buddhist Bhutan Continues To Discriminate Against Christians

By Martin Roth

Buddhism is widely viewed as a religion of tolerance, able to co-exist with all other religions. Don’t tell that to the Christians of Sri Lanka, who have endured waves of persecution. Nor to the Christians of Bhutan.

Bhutan is a small Asian kingdom wedged between India and China. Buddhists make up three-quarters of the population, with Hindus most of the remainder, although there is also a small and growing Christian presence. The country ranks at No. 28 – moderate persecution – on the Open Doors World Watch List of Christian persecution.

The Bhutanese king is due in India later this week for India’s Republic Day celebrations. The president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, Sajan George, took the occasion to call for religious freedom for the kingdom’s Christians.

Since 2006, the Bhutanese government has introduced democratic reforms after centuries of absolute monarchy during which religions other than Buddhism were banned.

In 2008, a new constitution was adopted that, formally at least, recognised religious freedom for all Bhutanese, as long as they informed the authorities. A few Hindu temples were thus built but Christians continue to be denied the right to build their churches or hold Masses in public.

The situation has in fact worsened since anti-conversion laws were adopted in 2010. “These laws were designed to prevent forced conversions or the use of financial inducements to convert,” said Sajan George. “And they impose a three-year sentence for ‘proselytising’.

“As in some Indian states, these laws are being used to persecute Christians, on the basis of false charges with regards to forced conversions,” he explained. “Often, they are used against charities as well.”

It is perhaps ironic that Bhutan practices Vajrayana Buddhism, also called Tibetan Buddhism, as it is the Dalai Lama who is often viewed as the key figure in promoting Buddhism as a religion of tolerance.

I feature Tibetan Buddhism extensively in my novel “Military Orders,” a Christian thriller about the search for a new Dalai Lama, where I describe this style of Buddhism as “signs and wonders,” with practitioners, under the direction of a spiritual guide, forming relationships with the occult.