Dalai Lama Joins Nobel Peace Summit in Rome

HH Dalai Lama joins 2014 14th world summit of nobel peace laureates in rome copyright ohhdl dalailama.com

“Nothing is as antagonistic to peace as the human mind without love, compassion, and reverence for life and nature.” This is the first statement of the final declaration issued by nine Nobel Peace Prize winners deliberating the ways and means of living life in peace.

“Peace thrives,” stated the Nobel Peace Laureates, “where governance protects the vulnerable, where the rule of law brings justice and the treasure of human rights, where harmony with the natural world is achieved, and where the benefits of tolerance and diversity are fully realized.”

The 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates

Gathering in Rome for their 14th World Summit, the Nobel Peace Laureates honored the legacy of Nelson Mandela, who passed away one year ago on December 05, 2013. They noted in their declaration that Mandela himself said: “love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite,” and they added that Mandela “exemplified the principles for which the Nobel Peace Prize is granted and serves as a timeless example of a truth he lived.”

The 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates was scheduled for October, convening in Cape Town, South Africa. However, it was moved to Rome after several Nobel Peace Laureates pulled out of the event when the South African government refused to grant a visa to HH Dalai Lama. It was reported that China thanked South Africa for not issuing the visa to HH Dalai Lama, due to his support for Tibetan autonomy.

Held annually since 1999, The World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates was created by Vadim Zagladin and the Gorbachev Foundation. It is chaired by former Soviet President and Nobel Peace Laureate Mikhail Gorbachev, and co-chaired by Walter Veltroni, former Mayor of Rome, Italy.

image (Image note and source: Screencap from nobelforpeace-summits.org of original 14th World Summit logo – venue and date changed to December in Rome, Italy, after South Africa complied with Chinese request to refuse a visa for HH Dalai Lama.)

HH Dalai Lama, when asked for comment about the South African and Chinese controversy over his visa, reported to the others about President Xi Jinping’s remarks in Paris and Delhi affirming the important role of Buddhism in Chinese culture. He noted that this is a positive step in the direction of peace.

“Now I concern myself only with the preservation of Tibetan culture and spirituality, which is a culture of peace and non-violence, and the protection of the Tibetan environment,” said the 14th Dalai Lama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. He continued, “On a human level, I consider we are all the same. I don’t think of myself as anything special, just as another human being.”

Deliberating on the Ways to Achieve Peace

Over the course of three days, the nine Nobel Peace Laureates examined many topics related to establishing peace. Included among these were maintaining rule of law, protecting global commons, eliminating poverty, increasing sustainable development, and pursuing an end to violence through nuclear disarmament and a ban on fully autonomous, or robotic, weapons.

“We are gravely concerned about the danger of war,” stated the Laureates in their final declaration, “including nuclear war – between large states.  This threat is now greater than at any time since the Cold War.” They pointed out, “Violence has many faces: prejudice and fanaticism, racism and xenophobia, ignorance and shortsightedness, injustice, gross inequalities of wealth and opportunity, oppression of women and children, forced labor and slavery, terrorism, and war.”

Although many people experience powerlessness expressed through cynicism, selfishness, and apathy, the Nobel Peace Laureates offer optimistic hope. “There is a cure: when individuals commit to caring for others with kindness and compassion, they change and they are able to make changes for peace in the world.”

Bringing it Closer to Home for HH Dalai Lama

During his time among the summit gatherings, HH Dalai Lama was gracious to answer many questions put to him by the media. Regarding the case of religious violence, the 14th Dalai Lama was asked about the attacks by Buddhists on Muslims in Burma. His reply was incredibly enlightening and encouraging. It was also quite surprising.

HH Dali Lama said that he has discussed this topic with Aung San Suu Kyi. Noting that he has said this before, he said that he has appealed to Burmese Buddhists “when they feel angry to recall the face of the Buddha.” He said he is convinced that “if the Buddha were there, he would offer these Muslims protection.” My respect for HH Dalai Lama just skyrocketed.

Peace and Climate Change

Another declaration from the final statement of the 14th Laureates’ Summit reads, “No nation can be secure when the climate, oceans, and rainforests are at risk. Climate change is already leading to radical changes in food production, extreme events, rising sea levels, the intensity of weather patterns, and is increasing the likelihood of pandemics.”

Speaking on behalf of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Rajendra Kumar Pachauri opened a discussion on day two about climate change. Joined on this day by a large delegation of young people in the audience, Pachauri welcomed the youth and warned:

“If we do nothing, sea levels may rise 98cms by the end of the century. If we allow climate change to continue as it is, everyone will be affected.” He continued, “For example, heat waves that used to occur once in 20 years can be expected to take place every other year. Food security will be affected.”

Pachauri asked the audience, “What can we do? Carbon emissions will have to fall to zero. If we are going to bring about change, it needs to be at a grassroots level, led by youth and inspired by knowledge. I invite today’s youths to be part of this and I will help you.”

image (Image note and source: Stephen Goose, International Campaign to Ban Landmines; Olufemi Elias, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons; Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; HH Dalai Lama; moderator Emilio Carelli, Ira Helfand, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War at the 14th Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Rome, Italy on December 13, 2014. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL Copyright OHHDL, dalailama.com)

Politics Fix More Easily Than Environmental Damage

Another question asked of HH Dalai Lama was regarding his successor and whether there will be a 15th Dalai Lama. He replied that as early as 1969 he had made it clear that the wishes of the Tibetans and other concerned people will determine if there is a 15th Dalai Lama or not. Then he laughed and said that “it seems some Chinese officials are more worried about this issue” than he is.

Finally, when asked if he believes there will be genuine autonomy in Tibet, the 14th Dalai Lama replied, “Yes, I think so. If the people involved take a realistic view of the situation it can change quickly and easily. It’s not like damage to the environment, which, once it has taken place, will be difficult to remedy.”

Decrying Religious Fanaticism

An altogether uplifting and enlightening gathering, the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates nevertheless offered many strong words of warning in their final declaration. “No creed, no religious belief,” they stated, “should be perverted to justify gross violations of human rights or the abuse of women and children. Terrorists are terrorists.”

Offering a solution for violence stemming from religious extremists, the Laureates declare, “Fanaticism in the guise of religion will be more easily contained and eliminated when justice is pursued for the poor, and when diplomacy and cooperation are practiced amongst the most powerful nations.”

A Call to Action Echoes From a Lonely Jail Cell

Issuing a call to action, the Nobel Laureates state, “We call upon religious, business, civic leaders, parliaments and all persons of good will to work with us to realize these principles and polices.” They continue, “Human values that honor life, human rights and security, are needed more than ever to guide nations. No matter what nations do every individual can make a difference.”

Echoing within the chambers of our hearts, the Nobel Peace Laureates remind us all, “Nelson Mandela lived peace from a lonely jail cell, reminding us that we must never ignore the most important place where peace must be alive — within the heart of each one of us. It is from that place that everything, even nations, can be changed for the good.”

image (Image note and source: Painted image of Nelson Mandel by Thierry Ehrmann on a wall of the Abode of Chaos art museum, France. Wikicommons.)

(Top image note and source: HH Dalai Lama with fellow Nobel Peace Laureates Tawakkol Karman from Yemen, Jody Williams from the USA, Lord David Trimble NPL from Northern Ireland and Shirin Ebadi from Iran before the opening session of the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Rome, Italy on December 12, 2014. Photo/Gian Luca Bianco. Copyright OHHDL, dalailama.com )
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About the Author

Aisha Abdelhamid (Birth-name Kathleen Vail) is a freelance lifestyle and environmental science writer currently living in Vancouver, BC. Her interests include environmental conservation, climate science, renewable energy, faith-based environmental activism, sustainable economics, corporate social responsibility, creative lifestyles, and healthy living.