Flanked by strong mountains draped in prayer flags, Tibet is synonymous with peace and it truly is one of the most beautiful countries one might ever see. Reading about the protests from thousands of miles away reminds me of the special, instantaneous connection I made with the people just a few months ago.
Tibet is one of the world's most dichotomous and remote, yet advancing societies. The Tibetans have long advocated for separation from China while also benefiting in some ways from the country's presence since 1959. In meeting the people themselves, you learn firsthand that theirs is a constant struggle between tradition and the uninvited, but perhaps inevitable, encroachment of modern society.
In October of 2007, I traveled extensively through China and Tibet. The beauty of the Tibetan people, their emotions, history, and pride seemingly showing in every wrinkle, smile or wink, struck me instantly. The land of this once mysterious place may be occupied, but its people continue to convey the spiritual fortitude that has drawn in so many from so far throughout time.
During my time in Tibet, I was dramatically moved by the warmth and welcoming nature of a people who had so few encounters with Americans. With absolutely no measure of a common language, their eyes brought you into their world and their peaceful, compassionate religion.
China's environmental and labor rights record is questionable and for 57 years they have occupied Tibet - years through which Tibetan monks have continued to fight for their religious freedom.
Perhaps the media attention that accompanies the Olympics, as well as today's news of protests, will highlight the complicated relationship between China and this wondrous but increasingly modernized country. But if the recent violence is any indication, I fear it will only increase the tension, the crackdowns, and further China's resolve to dim the brightest and most unique qualities of a country that has only ever wanted peace.
CBS/Allison Davis O'Keefe