A MEETING OF MINDS - His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet is greeted on his arrival at city of Derry Airport this morning by Richard Moore, director, Children in Crossfire (Derry Journal, 18 July 2007)
Derry/Londonberry, July 18: Welcoming His Holiness the Dalai Lama here this evening as the keynote speaker at the International Conference on children's rights and "A Promise for the Future", Mr Richard Moore, Director of Children in Crossfire told the conference delegates and guests that his organisation could not find a better person in the world than His Holiness to address the conference marking the organisation's 10th anniversary.
"If anybody incorporates everything that is right in the world it is the Dalai Lama. He is someone who has experienced hardship himself, someone who has suffered and who has campaigned for compassion, peace and rights for children and everybody globally", Mr Moore told a sold-out conference audience of more than 1000 representatives from political, business, community and charity organisations from Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, and from as far away countries as Nigeria, Canada and Bangladesh.
Mr Moore, who was blinded by a rubber bullet after being shot by a British soldier in Derry as a boy of 10 in 1972, founded Children in Crossfire to help other children across the world.
"I have first hand experience of what it is like to have your whole life changed or affected by conflict. In the last 10 years Children in Crossfire has been working to improve the lives of young people right across the world. We have seen the difference that support and understanding can make," Mr Moore said of his charity, which has volunteers involved in projects across Africa and beyond.
Addressing the conference, His Holiness said that he considered Richard to be his "hero" because of the inner strength he has shown by forgiving the British soldier who had blinded him when he was a young boy of 10. This is the third time His Holiness has met Richard, the last being in 2005 when Richard had come to attend His Holiness' public talk in Northern Ireland's capital Belfast.
"If I face that kind of tragedy, whether I forgive or not I cannot say. But in his case he actually implements," His Holiness said, adding that Richard is also blessed with a caring mother and family.
His Holiness said that forgiveness is not a sign of weakness, but of greatness and explained how wonderful it was to see that Richard had not only forgiven the soldier, but also befriended him and how the two had come together this morning to meet him privately at the Derry hotel he was staying.
Later, when His Holiness presented traditional Tibetan white scarves to both Richard and the soldier in appreciation for their present positive conduct, the audience gave a warm applause and standing ovation.
Others who had addressed the conference yesterday and this morning included Jane Olson, chairwoman of Human Rights Watch, internationally-acclaimed journalist Fergal Keane, and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Michael Kitt, who also briefly met with His Holiness upon his arrival at the Millennium Forum, the main conference venue.
Earlier in the day His Holiness was received in the Guildhall by the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Patricia Logue, who also attended His Holiness' meeting with the victims of the conflict in Northern Ireland. His Holiness told them that compared to his previous visit to the city some years back, this time the atmosphere was more calm and peaceful "and more smiling faces".
His Holiness told the gathering of more than 100 victims representing various groups that by their act of forgiveness, they can, like Richard, enjoy more peace of mind and a happy family life. (Richard is happily married with a teacher wife and two college-going daughters, all of whom met His Holiness this morning).
At the hotel and meeting venues visited by His Holiness, the Tibetan leader was followed and greeted warmly by the local people and tourists alike with folded hands and flashes of cameras.
Speaking yesterday to the Derry Journal newspaper, Foyle MP Mark Durkan and Former Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland expressed hopes that His Holiness' visit to Northern Ireland's second largest city would help to foster and support peace among different communities, and that his teachings of kindness, compassion and inter-connectedness will not be lost.
"It is a great honour to have such a distinguished international figure visit our city. The Dalai Lama's efforts as a champion of world peace have been recognised with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
"He is an excellent ambassador of non-violent conflict resolution around the world", said Mr Durkan, who besides a couple of other well-known political leaders had separately called on His Holiness today.
His Holiness also addressed a press meeting attended by more than 40 journalists representing various print and broadcasting media. He told them that his visit to the city was at the invitation of Richard, whom he admired as a man of action and to address the Children in Crossfire's conference. Answering questions from the media, His Holiness said that his three main commitments in life were to encourage warm-heartedness, inter-religious harmony and as a Tibetan he has a moral obligation to act as a free spokesman of the Tibetan people because for their trust in his leadership.
The same morning His Holiness gave a joint audience to more than 20 Tibetans who had come from Ireland and more than 10 members of the Tibet Suport Group-Ireland. He advised them not to lose hope and to keep alive the Tibetan spirit in accordance to the Tibetan motto, "Hope for the best but, prepare for the worst".
The general mood of the public during His Holiness the Dalai Lama's visit to Derry can be summed up by what a local actress had told the Belfast Telegraph newspaper sometime back about her experience of seeing and hearing His Holiness teach in Dharamsala.
"I'm not a practising Buddhist, but I've often found the Dalai Lama's teachings really assuring and comforting. The Dalai Lama is such a huge icon, and normally in a situation like that people would be freaking out. But it was so calm and everyone just sits and waits their turn, no one is pushing or shouting, there's no hysteria whatsoever.
"Two minutes before the gates opened I could sense this apprehension, this excitement and buzz. You could feel his presence before he was there. When he walked in, my whole body just went like pins and needles and cold, and it made me cry. It was involuntary - it sounds so soppy, but I was completely overwhelmed. He looked over and smiled and waved and I couln't smile enough. It was the most profound moment, amazing", the famous actress Zoe Lucker told the Belfast Telegraph.
Yesterday, before taking the private plane from London to Derry, His Holiness was received at the Heathrow Airport by Mr Ashok Kumar, Protocol Officer at the Indian High Commission, Mr Marcus O'Neil on behalf of the Children in Crossfire and Mr Tsering Tashi, Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for Northern Europe, Poland and the Baltic Countries based at the Office of Tibet, London, who also accompanied His Holiness to Derry.
Tomorrow morning His Holiness leaves Derry for Hamburg in Germany where His Holiness is scheduled to spent over a week giving public talks and teachings at the invitation of Buddhist organisations. A survey published in a German media reported on 16 July that Germans gave top ranking to His Holiness the Dalai Lama "as a role model". The survey carried out for the popular German paper Der Spiegel showed that the Tibetan Nobel Peace Laureate enjoyed a particularly high popularity rating among the young and better educated. It said half of those questioned in these groups believed His Holiness was able "to provide advice on how to live".(Report by Office of Tibet, London)