On 5 March 2013, a special ceremony was held at the Northampton Guildhall in memory of those who died during the 10 March uprising in Tibet 54 years ago.
The guest of honour was Mr Thupten Samdup, the Dalai Lama’s Representative to the UK and Northern Europe. He was greeted by the Mayor and Mayoress Roger & Jenny Conroy, the Leader of the Council David Mackintosh, Keith Davies ex-Leader of the Council and many other Councillors, including the Deputy Lieutenant of Northamptonshire Cllr Terry Wire. Mr Samdup inspired the packed hall with his words of compassion and wisdom.
The video of the song Burning in the Mountains by Jane Alston was shown. The song was inspired by the current wave of self-immolation protests in Tibet. The video includes harrowing scenes of self-immolation and also shows the Dalai Lama crying at this tragic loss of life.
Before the event began photos and names of the deceased were shown on a big screen with Rest in Natural Great Peace (sacred Tibetan music) playing in the background.
The ceremony included speeches, prayers and music. The Mayor, Roger Conroy, read out a heartfelt letter of concern from TV presenter, Gloria Hunniford. Ms Hunniford said, “It is a great honour to send love to this event and help keep the Tibetan lineage alive. My daughter TV celebrity, Caron Keating, was battling with cancer and she had the Dalai Lama’s photo by her bed and Tibetan monks stayed in her home. She gained incredible strength from their kindness and care. I wish you much success in this incredibly honourable cause. My very best wishes.”
Caroline Scattergood, organiser of the event, spoke about Tsering Kyi, a 20 year-old Tibetan woman who took her life in desperation to help Tibet, saying to her family, “Life is meaningless if we don’t do something for Tibet.”
David Mackintosh, leader of the Council, spoke on behalf of the Council and their 14 years of support for the Tibetan people. Mr Mackintosh revealed that the Council had been pressured by Chinese government officials to cancel the flag-raising ceremony, but the Council refused to yield saying, “It’s traditional now!”
A letter was read out from Micheal Ellis MP for Northampton. Mr Ellis said, “I am pleased that the people of Northampton will again have an opportunity to show their support for the Tibetan people. I would have liked to have been able to attend but I am required at the House of Commons.
“I remain very concerned about the situation in Tibet. The conduct of the Chinese government with regards to Tibet has repeatedly shown how little they respect the rights and will of the Tibetan people. I hope that the new Chinese leadership will show a reforming attitude to this matter and a new-found respect for Tibetan culture but until they do campaigners like those here today are so very important.
“I know the Prime Minister also feels strongly about this, and alongside the Foreign Secretary, have repeatedly raised the human rights issue with the Chinese Government at every available opportunity. This diplomatic pressure will continue and I hope we will all eventually see a peaceful and equitable resolution.”
Before the flag was raised the audience sat in silence and contemplation while healing Tibetan sounds flowed around them played by Rozz & Ant. The audience were asked to pray for Tibet and the deceaseds’ mothers and fathers and share in their loss and grief.
The flag was raised and we were left with this thought:
The true way to mourn the dead… is to take care of the living that belong to them. “So, Northampton will take care of Tibet.”
The flag-raising & ceremony was organised by Shine a Light for Tibet, a Northampton-based voluntary group which raises awareness about the Tibet issue. For more info contact Caroline at firstname.lastname@example.org.