Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Chokta Lobsang: in memoriam

                                  Chokta Lobsang, a kind and warmhearted young Tibetan monk who was a writer and advocate for freedom of expression has been brutally murdered. He told me that when he was 16 going on 17, he left Tibet in winter and with a group of 56 people crossed the Himalayas through the deep snow into India. He knew his life wasn't safe in Tibet. Two of his nephews had immolated themselves, to keep out of the hands of the Chinese secret service: The ultimate form of resistance, out of free will and choice. People working for the latter dis-service raped and killed his young niece. During two PEN-Conferences I met this amazing young man and we had several warm, personal and serious conversations. He told me then that a couple of times a years - not having seen his mother for 17 years - he would call his mother. Yet then they could not speak freely, seen the aforementioned 'service' was always listening in. With a kind of code, they managed to at least a bit of personal  exchange. Probably the biggest joy for this young man was hearing his mothers voice.
He was an unwavering Vice-president of PEN Tibetan Writers Abroad always defended colleagues in trouble, literature and freedom of expression. Many of us having met Lobsang at PEN meetings over the last number of years, including the PEN International Congresses in Reykjavik (2013), the WiPC Conference in Krakow (2013) have been touched by this thoughtful and kind person. In India he was a teacher to the young monks. His murder was gruesome. And we might never know the full story of who did pull the strings. Heavy hearted, saddened yet also grateful to have been touched by this extraordinary person I want to remember our last meeting when he offered David, the then president of PEN-Flanders and myself a white scarf which we both hold dear and cherish.
Thinking of you in gratitude for having known you.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Fatena in Zedelgem and St Niklaas

After the long drive to Zedelgem, we were rewarded with an interesting bunch of people who had braved the rain and darkness. Karl introduced Pen-Flanders and the work we do for authors who had to flee their country. Fatena is from Gaza and she read from her book "Gods bedrog" (freely translated in English as "Gods Cheating").

The  question and answer part was very interesting and also the texts she wrote by pictures taken during the last 51 days war in the Gaza strip. It was heart wrenching to see the children who has been killed and the unsurmountable grief of the parents... People asked question also about religion. Fatena having read the Koran and the bible spoke about having worn the hijab and how by reading the koran
she stopped being 'so radical'. Her performance in Arabic is haunting, her rendition in Dutch by Karel was heartfelt. Here to the right you see him next to the very enthousiastic Misses "Hemelwater" as we accidentally called her.
The young people were very inquisitive and asked questions, not only about the Koran, and the war in Gaza, but also about PEN-Flanders. Some private talks with the students afterwards were quite interesting too.