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"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."

Editorial: Like oil and water

September 24, 2010

Kuensel Online (Bhutan)
September 18, 2010

The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan states
that religious institutions and personalities
shall remain above politics. This means that a
certain section of the Bhutanese is not allowed
to get involved in party politics or vote.

The chhoedey lhengtshog has defined who can and
who cannot vote in an election, and is now quite
clear in their definition of religious
personalities. This is timely if not late. Going
by reports, a number of lay monks or gomchens,
especially in eastern Bhutan, were disqualified
because the rules or definitions were not clear.
In a democracy, depriving people of the right to
vote is wrong. The list of people registered with
the election offices around the country for the
functional literacy test would have been longer,
had the list been announced a month earlier.

However, it is better late than never, especially
when the constitution mandates the separation of
religion and politics. Although we have not
experienced the same on our home soil, the
relationship – and the sensitivity – between
religion and politics is not a new issue. The
separation of the religion, also called the
Church and the State, has been adopted by most
constitutions. The wisdom of this overall
decision is widely accepted and has been proved
time and again in different countries.

Religion, looking at instances around the globe,
has too often been used as a destabilising factor
in politics. Lessons from nations, near and far,
tell us that mixing religion and politics has
devastating effects. That is why we have internal strife and civil wars.

Religion in Bhutan or Buddhism has been the
source of our spiritual values and heritage.
Buddhism has been synonymous with the way we live
everyday. Therefore, it should be understood that
it is not Buddhism, but the institutions or
personalities that should remain above politics.
Imagine a popular trulku standing for elections
or campaigning for a candidate. From the
gatherings, we see at wangs and lüng ceremonies,
it is evident that the probabilities of winning
or making someone win are on the higher side.

But again it is not about winning an election
from a constituency. The concern is that a large
majority of the people has complete faith, even
blind faith, in Buddhism; and this can be easily exploited.

In our context, Buddhism is not only relevant,
but necessary, in political life. Buddhism
teaches us about equality and justice, about
compassion. In fact, our politicians can take
advantage of our religion to serve the people
better. In the end, we are talking about
separating spiritual values and religious personalities.
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