Mar 22, 2004, 05:59
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Armenians and Tibetans, two peoples who “share the same fate,” banded together last Friday in a gesture of solidarity.
“The noble Tibetan people are also victims of injustice and a cultural genocide to this day, while the rest of the world looks on,” said Azad Chichmanian, a member of the Ad Hoc Armenian Committee in Support of Tibet-China Negotiations. Like Armenia, Tibet is a “small but proud nation, working hard to gain recognition for crimes against humanity,” he added.
Chichmanian said that a group of Armenians “saw an opportunity to contribute in a positive way and help.” The Ad Hoc Committee joined forces with Armenian student associations from Concordia, McGill and Université de Montréal to host an information night at UdeM.
“It means so much to the Tibetan community,” said Thubten Samdup, national president of the Canada-Tibet Committee. “It has been played up on the Tibetan radio, in the newspapers. We feel like we’re not alone.”
Addressing the small crowd, Samdup said pressuring the Prime Minister’s office to meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a key issue. He will be visiting the nation’s capital on April 24, which happens to coincide with the day Armenians will be commemorating the Armenian Genocide.
The Canada-Tibet Committee is not asking the federal government to take a firm position on the matter, but simply to broker dialogue between the leaders, Samdup said.
“We’re not going to beg for a photo-op with the Dalai Lama, we want something tangible,” he explained. Human rights are the cornerstone of Canadian policy, he said, and our nation is in a unique position to take this leadership role.
For Samdup, it is a matter of preserving Tibet’s identity. “I definitely don’t want to sit back and be a witness to my culture and people being wiped out.”
Following the Canada Tibet Connittee president’s address, the Ad Hoc group encouraged audience members to sign letters for their MPs, asking them to support Canada-Tibet negotiations. “The message is, we don’t want this repeated. We’ll stand shoulder to shoulder [with Tibetans],” Viken Attarian, a member of the Armenian group, said.
As of yet, 137 of 298 members of parliament have signed on and expressed support for the initiative. Samdup contends that if a majority of representatives are sympathetic to their cause, Prime Minister Paul Martin will have to consider taking action. “If China’s going to listen to anyone, it might be Canada.”