Nuns Burning Themselves for Freedom in Tibet

As we wrap up our Antigone projects, I thought it was poignant, yet disturbing that I came upon this article in The Independent. The title is “Nun burns herself to death in new phase of struggle for Tibet” and the article discusses recent turmoil experienced by Tibetan monks and nuns, whose practice of Buddhism has become nearly impossible due to political unrest.  Horrifically, this act of self-immolation is only one of nine to have occurred this year.

With many monks being forced back to their home-villages for “patriotic re-education,” there is a feeling of awful helplessness.  The article states, “In this area there is a very bad situation. This is the only way they feel they can send a message.”  The article also offers these words:

“Those monks are not doing anything against Buddhism by self-immolation. In Buddhism, one person cannot give up for their own reasons, but it is a good thing if a person gives up his or her life for many lives. Their actions look like suicide, but they died for many other people’s lives and freedoms, because they are not allowed to attack and kill anyone else.”

This, I feel, is a current unfolding of Antigone.  In these circumstance, it seems as though self-imposed death is the only way to make change.  Those who have died have realized that their deaths will lead to the freedom of the living.  They also pose the question “is it worth living with such little freedom?  If I will not make a change, who will?”

This is why it is critical that the story of Antigone be told, whatever form it may take.  We must remind ourselves and others that the tragedies and conflicts that the Greeks dealt with are still with us today.  We must not forget where we came and where we have the potential of peacefully going.

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