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China bans Tibetan children from praying during holy month

Move to prevent Buddhist parents, children marking Saga Dawa part of drive to 'dilute negative impact of religion'

China bans Tibetan children from praying during holy month

Tibetan children burn incense during a festival at Gomar Gompa (Monastery) in Repkong, Tibet in this file photo. China has reportedly banned children from religious activities during the Buddhist holy month marking Saga Dawa. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP)

June 15, 2017

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Teachers and parents at a school in Tibet were ordered to prevent children from participating in religious activities during the important Buddhist anniversary month of Saga Dawa.

A document circulated by the primary school in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region at the end of May stated that parents must take the responsibility in making sure their children "are not involved in any type of superstitious and religious activity" during their summer holiday, and that they must not engage in such practice either, the International Campaign for Tibet website reported.

Saga Dawa, the anniversary of the Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death, is seen as a good time for Buddhist practice through offering prayers, giving alms to beggars, refraining from eating meat and seeking to act with compassion and kindness.

The instructions issued by the Je-bumgang (Chinese: Ji Peng Gang) Elementary School in Lhasa gave clear instructions that children should not participate in such actions, evidence of the Chinese authorities targeting a younger generation as part of a systematic ideological drive to "dilute the negative impact of religion" specified in a recent state media report.

A political campaign in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) known as the "four loves" specified this objective, linked to promoting loyalty to Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party leadership was part of an intensified control agenda in the year of the 19th Party Congress.

The focus on preventing children from expressing religious devotion is part of a new, tougher phase in Beijing's broader efforts to control Tibet through replacing loyalty to the Dalai Lama with allegiance to the party, which has led to fears of the elimination of Tibetan national and religious identity. 

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