Some 8,500 Tibetans live in the United States, with close to 3,000 in Minnesota -- making it the second-largest Tibetan community after New York.
Even though they no longer reside in their homeland, Tibetans here remain sympathetic to those still living under -- and protesting -- Chinese rule in Tibet.
It's why Tibetans have organized an interfaith prayer event July 1 at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Minneapolis. It's expected to attract close to 600 religious faithful from a range of backgrounds: Lutherans, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, American Indians and others.
Those at the event will offer prayers of support for the people of Tibet and commemorate the dozens of Tibetans who have committed suicide by setting their bodies on fire to protest Chinese rule.
"The [Minnesota Tibetan] community is ... in a sense very strongly behind them in creating awareness" of what's going on in Tibet, said Thupten Dadak , a former Tibetan Buddhist monk considered the patriarch of the local Tibetan community, who is organizing the interfaith event.
Dadak said the last time a Tibetan-sponsored interfaith event this size was held in the Twin Cities was when China hosted the Olympics. More than 600 people showed up to highlight human rights concerns in China.
The event will feature a keynote speech by Palden Gyatso, a Tibetan Buddhist monk imprisoned by the Chinese for more than 30 years, who now travels the world talking about his experience.
In addition to prayers from faith leaders, the event will also showcase performances by Minnesota singer Robert Robinson, sitar music by Nirmala Rajasekar, American Indian drumming and Tibetan chanting by the Gyuto Monks of Tibet.
"The community is very filled with loss," Dadak said. "Human life is very precious. This is about religious freedom and freedom for the Tibetan people."
Rose French • 612-673-4352