Why are Tibet’s nuns self-immolating? Who is the Karmapa?

The International Campaign for Tibet reports: “News has reached ICT from Kirti monks in exile in India of the self-immolation today [Feb. 11] of an 18-year-old Tibetan nun, at around 6 p.m. in Ngaba. This is the third Tibetan nun to set fire to herself since the wave of self-immolations began inside Tibet in February 2009, and the second from her nunnery.”

It brings heartfelt response from Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Frinley Dorje, known to Tibetan Buddhists as the 17th Karmapa. Karmapa is a sublime young man who is said by some to fill the shoes of the Dalai Lama when he passes on. As Xi Jinping expects to soon become China’s top leader, these two go together. His comments from the International Campaign for Tibet:

“Having been given the name Karmapa, I belong to a 900-year-old reincarnation lineage that has historically avoided any political engagement, a tradition I have no intention of changing. And yet as a Tibetan, I have great sympathy and affection for the Tibetan people and I have great misgivings about remaining silent while they are in pain.

“Reports have just emerged that three more Tibetans set themselves ablaze within a single day in eastern Tibet. This comes shortly after four Tibetans immolated themselves and others died in demonstrations in Tibet during the month of January. As tensions escalate, instead of showing concern and trying to understand the causes of the situation, the Chinese authorities respond with increasing force and oppression … I pray that these sacrifices have not been in vain, but will yield a change in policy that will bring our Tibetan brothers and sisters relief.

“I call on the authorities in Beijing to see past the veneer of well-being that local officials present. Acknowledging the real human distress of Tibetans in Tibet and taking full responsibility for what is happening there would lay a wise basis for building mutual trust between Tibetans and the Chinese government. Rather than treating this as an issue of political opposition, it would be far more effective for Chinese authorities to treat this as a matter of basic human welfare."