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Ball State professor leads walk to Washington for Tibet independence

July 12, 2010

By Jaclyn Goldsborough
The Ball State Daily News (Indiana)
July 8, 2010

Lawrence Gerstein walks down the road to raise
awareness for Tibet. Gerstein and his group are
walking from Philledelphia to Washington, D.C.

Lawrence Gerstein celebrated his Fourth of July
differently this year. Of course he still thought
about the sacrifices and struggles faced when a
country is looking to gain independence, but this
Independence Day was about something more; it was
about the search for the Tibetan independence.

Gerstein, director of the center for peace and
conflict studies and professor of psychology at
Ball State University, is leading the "March for
Tibet’s Independence," a 150-mile walk from
Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. which began July 4 and will end on July 13.

The walk is beginning at Independence Hall, the
birthplace of American independence, and ending
at China’s Embassy in Washington, D.C. where the
group will hold a demonstration.

Beginning their days at 6:30 a.m. with breakfast
and ending around 5 p.m. with dinner, Gerstein
said people the group has encountered have been
providing the walkers with food and water on their long journey.

Only a few days in, and with hot temperatures,
Gerstein said the walkers are fighting the pain
of blisters and aches in silence.

"It’s really humbling to be with all these people
who are experience pain from the heat and
blisters and no one is complaining, but we keep
Tibetans in our mind, realizing their suffering
is greater than what we are going through," he said.

Keeping Tibet in his mind has always been the
driving force behind Gerstein’s involvement with advocacy and social justice.

"I’m here for two reasons. One, the whole Tibetan
movement is centered in nonviolence; using that
to resolve a conflict, we send a strong message.
Second, because as China gets stronger so does
their military power and buying Chinese goods
affects military growing, we want to educate
people about that. It’s not just about Tibet, but the world."

Organized by the International Tibet Independence
Movement (ITIM), more than 20 Tibetans and other
supporters from around the world are currently
walking toward Washington, D.C. The organization
was created in 1995 by Gerstein and Taktser
Rinpoche, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s eldest
brother. The group has more than 5,000 supporters
worldwide since it was started.

Gerstein said ITIM has held similar
demonstrations before, all promoting peaceful and
nonviolent protests. This year the Tibetan
community from Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
will attend the protest and as a whole, the group
will try to deliver a letter to the Chinese
embassy explaining their concerns and issues with their rule over Tibet.

He said the group has never been able to deliver
the letter to the embassy before because of the
police and secret service who are protecting the
embassy, though they protest peacefully.

Ngawang Norbu, ITIM board member said in a press
release, "It has been 51 years since China
brutally and illegally occupied our country. This
is a long time for an individual, but not long
for a nation," he said. "We must be patient and
work hard, if necessary, for another 51 years to
achieve independence for our country, Tibet. If
there is a sunset, there is also a sunrise. Right
now is a dark period for Tibet, but the sun will
definitely rise again and Tibet will be free."

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