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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Berkshire Couple Educate Tibetans on Nonviolence

May 29, 2008

By Amy Carr
Berkshire Eagle (UK)
Tuesday, May 27

It began with violence.

Mary Gandler clung to a metal bar beside her bus seat, a group of
Tibetans ripping at her waist, shouting for her to get off. But
without their scheduled taxi after a tour of Tibet's oldest
monastery, Mary and her husband, Everett, had no choice but to hitch
a ride with a bus hired by Tibetan pilgrims.

"They were physically trying to throw us off, but we had no ride,"
the 67-year-old Great Barrington woman remembered. "I'm an older
woman and they are clinging to my shirt. But we managed to stay on."

What had begun as a cultural exploration to celebrate Mary's 55th
birthday quickly turned into an encounter the Gandlers would never
forget. "We're in Tibet, and it's my birthday, and we've just had
this horrible experience with Tibetans, who had always been very kind
to us before," said Mary. "So it was like, what is going on here?"

The question gnawed at the couple, who grew increasingly fascinated
by the outpouring of frustration and violence in a region caught
between peace and conflict.

For the past 12 years, Mary, a retired psychologist, and Everett, a
retired Rabbi, have been traveling to schools and monasteries near

Dharamsala, India, one or two times annually to educate Tibetan
refugees about active nonviolence and a resolve to freedom.

"Nonviolence is a people's movement, so Everett and I started giving
seminars to anyone who would hear us," Mary said. "Young people
coming into India are angry, sad, frustrated, and we're very
concerned about that because if there are riots you can rebuild
monasteries, but rebuilding character is another thing."

More than 100,000 Tibetans, including the exiled Dalai Lama, have
made their homes in India, fleeing Tibet, which has been controlled
by China since 1959. China contends Tibet has historically been a
part of China, while Tibet maintains its roots are as an independent country.

In March, with the eyes of the world on China as the country prepares
to host the 2008 Olympic Games, deadly riots and demonstrations
tarnished the traditional torch relay in several countries around the world.

Through their recently certified, self-funded non-governmental
organization Active Nonviolence Education Center, the couple aims to
illuminate individual power.

"Sometimes I say to my students, 'What do you think a nonviolent arm
looks like?' " said Everett, a wiry man in his late 70s who was once
jailed in Georgia with Martin Luther King Jr. "And of course they
say, Ghandi's arm. But then I show them a cover of the New York Times
Magazine with four Huskies who look like young Schwarzeneggers. So
it's getting them to see it can be both. How morality can gain muscle
to affect politics."

Martin Luther King Jr. The Dalai Lama. Mary and Everett Gandler.

Though the local couple has met both historical figures multiple
times, they do not regard their efforts with the same esteem. Rather,
they look at more than a decade of service as a modest and realistic
effort toward a monumental goal.

"We come in and we do our road show, and it's a big hit," said
Everett. "But we say, you need someone who can handle this all year
round. You need to build a community and ask people, 'What do you
think you can do to maintain your language, culture and economy? What
can you do to make it harder for this conflict to go on?' "

On Sept. 1, just after the conclusion of the Olympics, the Gandlers
will return to India to check on their program and preach active
nonviolence. With each visit, they brief the Dalai Lama on their program.

Though their mission stemmed from a moment of violence, the Gandlers
hope it will conclude with a peaceful resolution. "We don't know what
it will be like when we go back, with the eyes of the world no longer
on China," said Mary. "The task still is getting this message into
Tibet. But we'll keep showing them that they can make a difference.
Whether it's posting a video online or writing a letter, the goal is
to let each person know they have more power than they think they do."

Contributions to the Gandlers' Tibet efforts may be sent to:

The Tibet Fund
241 East 32nd St.
New York, NY 10016

Direct donations to the Gandlers' group by writing "The Active
Nonviolence Education Center" on the memo line of your check.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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