A man of peace dissed by peace conference
There aren't too many greater symbols of peace in our world than the Dalai Lama, but he's not welcome at this week's international peace conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. The conference has been called to highlight the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament, which is to be hosted by South Africa. Its aim is to gather Nobel peace laureates such as the Dalai Lama, as well as Hollywood celebrities and others for a discussion of issues including racism and how sports can serve to bring people together. Retired Cape Town Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former South African presidents F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela, acting on behalf of South African soccer officials who organized the event, invited the Dalai Lama to take part. It sure seems like a perfect fit. But wait. The South African government stepped in and rescinded the invitation. Thabo Masebe, speaking for President Kgalema Motlanthe, said the Tibetan spiritual leader isn't welcome because South Africa wants to avoid being "the source of negative publicity about China." Well, of course. What sort of peace conference would it be if they somehow offended the murderous regime in Beijing? I'm sure it's just a coincidence that South Africa is China's largest trading partner on the African continent. Tutu and members of the Nobel Committee are, correctly, backing out of the conference. But the Dalai Lama hasn't been banned from South Africa for life. In fact, Masebe told the Associated Press that the Tibetan leader has been welcomed twice before in South Africa and will be invited again in the future - just not now, "when the whole world is looking at South Africa." Sure, maybe they can spirit him in sometime under cover of darkness and get him out again before daybreak. Masebe is right about one thing. The whole world is looking at South Africa, and it's disgusted by what it's seeing.