BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS MARCHING FOR PEACE IN OCCUPIED TIBET
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” I invoke the blessings of God on Kunga Norbu and Adam Schaeuble who are walking to bring peace in Occupied Tibet by promoting the public awareness of the Great Tibet Problem.
BEAM: Friends walk to bring awareness to Tibet. Opinion. Newsandtribune.com
Kunga Norbu left, and Adam Schaeuble pose for a picture on the Big Four Bridge during their multi-state walking campaign to raise awareness about Tibet. Norbu is the nephew of the Dalai Lama, who gave his blessing for the trek, and suggested that the duo “create a wave of positivity.”
As they walked across Big Four Bridge that October Sunday, Kunga Norbu and Adam Schaeuble weren’t protesting anything.
The casual observer, though, might have thought differently.
A multicolored flag rested against Kunga’s shoulder as he strolled down the ramp into Jeffersonville. The emblem on it symbolized the country of his father’s birth, a nation no longer able to control the teachings of its past let alone its own future. Emblazoned on his and Adam’s yellow shirts were the words “Team Tibet” in crimson ink.
“If you walk anywhere and you’ve got a guy with a giant flag, people are probably like eyeballing you asking what kind of a thing is this? That’s the society that we live in,” said Adam. “Is this a good march or a bad march? Is this positive or is it negative? People almost always assume that it’s negative. But when we get to tell people about it, they realize it’s a cool, positive story.”
Louisville was stop number four on the duo’s eight-day walking tour to bring awareness about issues facing Tibet while also supporting and preserving Tibetan culture. On Oct. 4, they finished their journey in Columbus, Ohio with more than 200 miles walked.
“There are six million Tibetans in Tibet now,” Kunga said when discussing the treatment of Tibetan citizens by the Chinese government, the country that invaded Tibet in the 1950s. “We have to do something. We have to do anything. Even walking. Even one-mile.”
Kunga had completed this mileage before. In March of 2013, the Tibetan-American undertook a 230-mile trek from Washington, D.C., to New York City in memory of his brother Jigme. In 2011, Jigme lost his life when a sports utility vehicle struck him on a Florida road during a similar walk for Tibetan independence. He was 45.
But circumstances have since changed for the Bloomington resident. In January of 2015, a stroke wreaked havoc on Kunga’s body. After regaining most of his physical abilities through rehab, speech difficulties are the only remnants of the illness.
“When he starts talking about Tibet, he gets clearer,” Adam said. “Like his speech is more succinct. It’s like he’s talking from his heart. It’s really cool.”
Despite his health setbacks, the 55-year-old still wanted to honor his Tibetan heritage. His father, Thubten Norbu, established the Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington and was a professor at Indiana University. Thubten, too, was a Buddhist lama, not to mention the older brother of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
That’s right. Kunga is the Dalai Lama’s nephew.
Adam, on the other hand, has no Tibetan lineage. His friendship with Kunga brought him to this mission. Strangely enough, during high school, the now 38-year-old did a report on Tibet. Part of that assignment consisted of reading a book by — you guessed it — Professor Norbu, Kunga’s father.
Nine years ago, Kunga walked into the gym Adam owns. They quickly became pals. When Kunga’s brother died, Adam organized an Mt. Everest Challenge for his “gym family.” Participants climbed on an apparatus called Jacob’s Ladder in order to finish the steps Jigme wasn’t able to complete.
Knowing about his friend’s wish to do another walk that would bring awareness to Tibetan issues, Adam suggested they do a roughly week-long trek that would finish in Columbus, Ohio. Instead of traversing the whole way by foot on dangerous interstates, the pair would find trails in different Midwest cities. Kunga, Adam and anyone else who might want to come along would walk along these much safer paths to achieve their 200-mile goal.
“I’m like the big, noisy white Sherpa,” Adam said, referencing the Himalayan mountaineers who, at times, help climbers reach Mt. Everest.
Kunga liked the plan. In a March 2018 audience with the Dalai Lama, he asked for his uncle’s blessing. The Dalai Lama freely gave it and suggested to them an optimistic objective: Create a wave of positivity.
“That was his challenge for us, two people from two different cultures that are doing this because they are friends and support each other,” Adam said.
And, by just walking 200-miles with a Tibetan flag and their friendship, Kunga and Adam accomplished just this.
“The culture can’t be stamped out if people are still talking about what’s going on,” Adam said. “That’s the way we keep that culture alive. Just keep talking about it and share and share.”
— Amanda Hillard Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.