Join our Mailing List

"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

'Be Veg' competes with Tibet outside U.N.

September 24, 2009

msnbc - September 23, 2009
By Sandra Lilley, NBC News Producer

NEW YORK - Ingrid Hong, a petite insurance agent with two grown children,
rose early Wednesday morning and left her Queens, New York residence with a
placard - and a mission: "We encourage people to get peace by meditation and
no killing - but mainly, we urge people to keep a vegetarian diet."

Hong was among hundreds who braved the crowds and the police barricades to
come to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, across from the United Nations, on Wednesday
to try to compete for attention with the headline-generating protests
associated with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Libyan leader
Moammar Gadhafi.

She is part of a group called "The Supreme Master Ching Hai International
Association," which advocates what they consider a simple solution to combat
global warming. "According to a U.N. report," Hong explained, "livestock
farming contributes more greenhouse gases than the energy sectors...We want
the government to encourage organic farming."

Hong and others in her group occupied a prominent position next to a police
barricade at the entrance to the plaza. Amid somber and occasionally graphic
posters of wounded and dead Iranian protesters, the vegan group's placards,
"Be Veg, Go Green, Save the Planet," seemed to inspire many walkers to stop
and chat. "You go!" shouted a well-dressed middle-aged woman. "I'm a vegan
myself! Way to go!"

A voice for Tibet However, some of the assembled groups who have come year
after year to protest outside the United Nations during the General Assembly
sessions had a more sobering message.

"Sadly, [the U.N.] should be the place where disputes are settled - but it's
not," said Sonam Wangdu, Chairman of the U.S.-Tibet Committee.

Wangdu and others, some kneeling in prayer amid the noise and the crowds,
were there to call attention to what they consider unfinished business:
Their call for Tibetan independence and the end to what they denounce as
human rights abuses in the Himalayan region.

"Some of my friend's relatives were arrested in Tibet, and they are
'nowhere' - their family has no idea where they are and it's hard to wrest
information from the government," said Pema Chodon, a 37-year-old Tibetan
who worked in the design industry, but is currently unemployed.

Chodon, who grew up in refugee camps in India, started to cry softly as she
recounted why she has come here during the U.N.'s General Assembly every
year for the past 12 years. "Those in Tibet cannot bring their voice here,
so I can bring their voice."

She added that the Tibet issue is not just about human rights, but
environmental issues, too. "Tibet is vast, with the highest peaks and many
natural minerals." Chodon believes that the world has an obligation to try
to stop the deforestation in Tibet. She and Wangdu also warned that the
rivers in Tibet are a major source of water and have to be kept clean. This,
they say, is part of what the United Nations should be doing.

Still, after years of advocacy, does Wangdu believe that gathering in front
of the United Nations makes a difference to their cause?

"To be honest, it's very difficult," Wangdu said. He said he believes that
the United Nations' current structure "is designed not to function. But
symbolically, we have to do it."
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank