The New York Times reports on the crucial role Tibetan monks are playing in the quake-relief efforts:

But perhaps just as striking as Beijing’s rescue-and-relief juggernaut is the highly visible operation mounted by Buddhist monks, thousands of whom have traveled long distances from Tibetan areas of the country. They distribute packaged biscuits, tend huge vats of barley and dig for bodies.

Like their makeshift prayer tent in central Jiegu, much of that help has been uncoordinated, and for the moment, tolerated by a government suspicious of grassroots organizing and especially organized religion.

The Communist Party has long had a tempestuous relationship with the country’s ethnic Tibetans. Ties have been particularly strained since March 2008, when violence broke out across the Tibetan plateau. The worst, in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, left 18 dead and scores wounded, many of them Han Chinese migrants from the east.

Although officials canceled the annual horse-race festival that year, Jiegu has largely remained quiet. “We have not had troubles like other places,” said Aji Suo Nade Ji, 36, a secretary in the local environmental bureau. “Maybe it’s because we have always been given more freedom to practice our culture.”

On Saturday, local monks organized a mass cremation of 1,400 bodies in Jiegu that took place without any government involvement. Since the quake, several Tibetan-run organizations have been allowed to provide aid and medical services. By contrast, many nongovernmental groups were barred from participating in relief efforts during the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province.

Read the full story here. See our previous quake coverage here.

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