South African anti-racism conference postponed over Dalai Lama row

By staff writers
March 25, 2009

The organizers of a South African anti-racism conference in the run up to the 2010 soccer World Cup have postponed the gathering after protests about its refusal to grant the Dalai Lama a visa to attend the event.

The South African Peace Conference was planned to focus on the power of football to promote community togetherness in the face of racism and xenophobia.

It was an initiative of South Africa's FIFA 2010 World Cup local organizing committee (LOC).

The event had initially won the support of South Africa's Nobel Peace Laureates, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and F.W. de Klerk.

They then extended an invitation to the world-renowned Tibetan spiritual leader, along with the Nobel Peace Committee and other dignitaries.

But the South African government refused the Dalai Lama a visa, because of its concerns about trade and diplomatic relations with China, which occupies Tibet and angrily denounces the Dalai Lama as the country's figurehead.

Now the chair of the event organizing committee, Irvin Khoza, has acknowledged that the refusal of a visa to the Dalai Lama has placed the conveners in an untenable position, leaving them no choice but to postpone the conference.

He declared: "Given that the purpose of the conference is peace, the conveners do not wish to put the Nobel Peace Committee under circumstances that would create conflict between the committee and its laureates. The conveners have therefore decided, in a spirit of peace, to postpone the South Africa Peace Conference to ensure it is held under conducive conditions."

As reported on Ekklesia, the postponement follows decisions by Archbishop Emeritus Tutu and ex-president de Klerk to withdraw from the conference.

Ex-president Nelson Mandela, now in retirement, was not due to attend.

Dr Tutu said the refusal to allow the Dalai Lama to attend was disgraceful, adding that South Africa is "shamelessly succumbing to pressure from China."

Both Tutu and the Tibetan spiritual leader have been prominent in global peace and human rights campaigns.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.