Day 13. Builder of a Nation
Tiring hope renewed, we’re off again. Once more our ascending journey mirrors our emotion. We’ve heard of a remnant, a refugee people, living nestled away amongst the thick green, hills which fade away in softening folds of gray.
A day earlier we met several street vendors. Carefully unwrapping their hand-made jewelry wrapped neatly in dark red cloth, we were compelled to listen, their gentle manner and smiling faces winning our audience. As we gazed over endless designs of beads and bracelets, long shadows gave way to deepening darkness, and word of an outcast people was brought to light. We heard only the beginning but wanted to know more, and soon excited plans were underway to visit their village. Packing their crafts with as much care as their presentation, our time together came to an end. Finishing last, the oldest woman, her kind round face adorned with deep lines of wisdom, noted that she was like my mother, deep lines turning to gentle smile. Everyone agreed, and now I have a mother in Nepal. …You can sleep a little easier tonight mom and dad, there’s a mom right here looking after me.
…So hope drew us to the hills again.
Already waiting for us when we arrive, we are warmly ushered into the home of Mr. Buche, one of around 600 people here at this Tibetan refugee settlement. We’re overwhelmed by his hospitality and gracious welcome into his home. Steaming cups of tia begin our conversation and we soon are drawn deep into the history of Tibet and its people. A teacher by profession, Mr. Buche’s stories capture our attention, revealing the longings of a people without home.
His story begins in the early days in Tibet. Life was easy then, people lived in community and used the barter system. Peace laid their heads to rest in the evening. But the rich land and natural resources proved irresistible for Tibet’s hulking neighbor and struggle ensued. Resistance of the small nation could not remain definite, and finally China’s brute force prevailed. Those who could escape now live as refugees in settlement camps, living without citizenship and possessing few rights. He described how as a refugee he could not own land, could not travel abroad with ease, and could not engage in many jobs. Moreover, the refugees own hardship is only intensified as even in 2008 protesters of Chinese occupation were beaten, tortured, imprisoned… even killed by their unwavering captors. Deep sadness set in as we heard how many children were left orphans as their parents went away for the protest in the morning and simply never returned… An unsettlingly common remembrance for the Tibetan refugee.
With personal story continuing, we heard of his family’s night flight as a young child and his eventual schooling in India. Finding inspiration in a newspaper quotation, his life course was set…
“A teacher is the builder of a nation…” The builder of a nation. An ambitious yet fitting vocation for a young man caught in the midst of national unrest brought on by a colonial appetite.
For the last 30 years, Mr. Buche has lived out this very task. Though one man, the plea of an entire people teem as his voice and passion raise for home.
The builder of a nation.
“The Spirit of the Lord is one me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” (Luke 4:18…)
Here at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he sets forth the outline for the rest of his life, an outline for what this new kingdom looks like fleshed out on earth. He looks for and calls out a peculiar people, a people not of right birth, or right class, or even of right religious ritual. Instead he crafts a people who do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God. A people genuinely concerned about their neighbor regardless of how different from themselves. A people burdened by suffering and passionately committed to righting wrongs. A people who care for the outcast, oppressed, and hungry…who take care of widows and orphans. A people who extend invitation to the stranger and take in the hurting. A whole people of holistic redemption. The builder of a nation.
As we left, we are overwhelmed once again as we are gifted with beautiful, light scarves. Sometimes given as gifts to holy men, this ‘katha’ is a symbol bestowed to honor a guest…and for us, to remember, to never forget our Tibetan neighbors and family…
Today our world cries out all around us. Suffering and brokenness, hunger and exploitation cling with desperation to worn prayers for rescue. An entire people remain without rights, aching at ever continuing news of the murder and abuse of their loved ones. The Tibetan plight continues…and they are not alone.
Maybe prayers go unanswered most when our voices remain silent and our hands remain still.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”
The builder of a nation. Oh to live this gracious calling.
Patrick/ trying to speak
Author’s Note: The history between Tibet and China is admittedly more complex and lengthy than the one described above. Rather than an exhaustive chronicle, this post represents the story of one man and an intricate global conflict as viewed through his eyes. However, this first person perspective often offers a depth of insight that no textbook can offer.