Dalai Lama spreads message of peace

  • October 31, 2007
{mosimage}OTTAWA - The Dalai Lama brought a message of peace and reconciliation to Ottawa Oct. 28-30, urging China to grant the Tibetan people the rights to preserve their language, culture and spirituality.

The 1989 Nobel Laureate also called for protection of Tibetan's fragile environment within a united China.

At a news conference on Parliament Hill Oct. 29, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader sketched out the history of the conflict that sent him into exile in the late 1950s. He pointed out that from the beginning Tibetans had called for “one country-two systems” that would give his people a measure of autonomy.

“The question of independence is out of the question,” he said, pointing out he was “not seeking separation.”

World support for Tibet is growing. Fresh from a visit to the United States, where he met with U.S. President George Bush, the Dalai Lama said he has also won the support of most European Union countries, especially of countries that experienced suppression while part of the former Soviet Union.

He warned the Tibetan non-violent push for human rights may not survive him.

“Unless you involve bloodshed, nobody pays attention,” he said. Tibetan youth have been openly critical of his approach and told him he has “sold out Tibetan rights” for calling for an autonomous Tibet within a united China. “The situation is worsening more and more,” he said.

During the height of military repression from 1956 to the early 1960s, the Chinese killed more than half a million Tibetans, he said.

The Dalai Lama thanked Canada for granting him honorary citizenship last year.

“I am a homeless person, so I found a new home.”

He praised Canada for its multicultural, multi-racial and multi-religious society, and for keeping a spirit of “human harmony.” He also praised Canada for taking her “concern about human rights, democracy, the rule of law and religious freedom to other parts of the world.”                                                                                                        

The Dalai Lama also met publicly with Prime Minister Stephen Harper Oct. 29, an historic meeting that brought threats of retaliation from the Chinese government. The Chinese accuse the spiritual leader of fomenting separatism in Tibet.

The last time the Dalai Lama met with a prime minister of Canada, former Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais arranged for a private meeting at his residence with Paul Martin in 2004.

Neither Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast nor apostolic nuncio Luigi Ventura was able to meet with the Dalai Lama due to scheduling conflicts, but Catholics played a key role in this visit as well. One of them was Senator Consiglio Di Nino, co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Tibet, who escorted the Dalai Lama around Ottawa and helped the 72-year old monk up the stairs to Centre Block on Parliament Hill. In welcoming him at a news conference in the historic Railway Room, Di Nino told how his passion for Tibetan human rights was born.

“I’m a good Catholic” he said, “but I did something illegal.” He confessed that while trekking in Tibet with a group of friends in 1990, he had hidden pictures of the Dalai Lama in his camera case. While visiting the Tibetan capital, he felt someone put something in his hand. A man had given him a leaflet “with a plea to shine a light on the situation in Tibet.”

The man who gave them the leaflet was “cowering in a corner,” and “appeared like an animal caught in a trap,” Di Nino said. An American woman with his group read the message and began to weep. So Di Nino reached into his camera case and pulled out a picture of the Dalai Lama and gave it to the young man.

“I think it was a moment that changed my life,” he said, describing how the man’s face lit up with joy on seeing the photograph.  From that moment, he made a silent promise to carry the torch to the extent he could to fight for human rights in Quebec.

Multiculturalism minister Jason Kenney, also a Catholic, also accompanied the spiritual leader. A long-time advocate for human rights, Kenney told journalists he did not think Canada would face repercussions from China despite the threats. He said he believed Canada could continue to trade with China “without sacrificing our strong believe in human rights.”

Kenney had been one of the sponsors of the bill to grant the Dalai Lama honorary citizenship.


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