About 50 Tibetans in the Portland area and others quickly organized a lunchtime prayer Wednesday in Pioneer Courthouse Square to draw attention to turmoil in the Himalayan nation in which nine young Tibetans have set themselves on fire.
"What people don't understand is that these young people are self-immolating, they are protesting so that others won't have to," said Migmar Gyalnub, with the Northwest Tibetan Cultural Association, which scheduled the prayer service with the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress.
Under a temporary shelter, the Tibetans set up a table to venerate a photograph of the Dalai Lama, whom Tibetans recognize as their spiritual leader. The Dalai Lama left Tibet more than 50 years ago as part China's domination of the mountain nation.
As about 30 Tibetans gathered Wednesday, into their midst walked City Commissioner Randy Leonard. Gyalnub offered Leonard two long white scarves -- Leonard draped one around his neck, the other around the photograph of the Dalai Lama.
Leonard took the microphone and told the gathering that he stands with their cause. Then Leonard stopped speaking to compose himself so that he could thank Gyalnub and other Tibetans in Portland "who surrounded me and my entire family and gave us hope" during "the darkest days of my life" -- after the May death of his adult daughter Kara.
Leonard said that before his family even knew it, Tibetans had gathered in a temple and chanted for more than 12 hours to remember his daughter.
The Tibetans planned to pray at the square until 6 p.m. Wednesday.
-- Anne Saker
Posted by Anna DiBenedetto