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Dalai Lama receives honorary citizenship of Polish capital
AFP[Wednesday, July 29, 2009 22:49]
His Holiness the Dalai Lama recieves the honorary citizenship of Warsaw city, the Polish capital, July 29, 2009 AFP photo
His Holiness the Dalai Lama recieves the honorary citizenship of Warsaw city, the Polish capital, July 29, 2009 AFP photo
WARSAW — Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama received honorary citizenship of the Polish capital Warsaw Wednesday at the city's Royal Castle, destroyed by the Nazis and rebuilt after World War II.

"We Varsovians, the residents of this indomitable city, are proud that as of today the 14th Dalai Lama is one of us," Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz told guests at ceremonies, including Poland's anti-communist icon Lech Walesa.

"As the councillors of a city which has suffered as much as Warsaw, we have the moral right and duty to express our respect and honour a person who is striving for the freedom and sovereignty for his nation, freedom that we have enjoyed for the last 20 years," Warsaw city council statement said.

This year Poland marked 20 years since it peacefully shed communism with partially free democratic parliamentary elections on June 4, 1989.

"I'm extremely happy and feel it is a great honour to become a citizen of this great city," the Dalai Lama said after receiving the honour.

"No matter what difficulties, the Polish spirit, Polish determination, always remained firm," the Dalai Lama said, speaking of Germany's bloody WWII occupation of Poland and the subsequent imposition of communism by the Soviet Union.

He also urged people to "explore our positive potential" and to practice "warm heartedness" as a means to avoid bloodshed.

"I have no doubt that freedom will come for your nation as it did for ours, just as I have no doubt I will one day receive an honorary title on that (Tibetan) territory," Poland's ex-president, Solidarity-era hero and Nobel Peace laureate Lech Walesa said at the ceremonies.

"So hurry up, I'm getting old," Walesa joked.

As the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the Dalai Lama last visited Poland in December 2008 for celebrations marking 25 years since Walesa was awarded the prize as leader of the country's Solidarity freedom movement that peacefully toppled communism.

The Dalai Lama reiterated his policy of genuine autonomy for his Himalayan homeland of Tibet within China and insisted the "world has a moral responsibility to bring China into the mainstream of world democracy."

He arrived in the Polish capital Warsaw on Monday for a three-day visit.

On Tuesday he visited a museum dedicated to the World War II Warsaw Uprising, a doomed 1944 insurrection by the Polish resistance against the occupying Nazi Germans.

During the visit, he compared the fate of the Tibetan people to Polish insurgents who, against all odds, rose up against the Nazis.

Retreating Nazi German forces bombed Warsaw heavily in 1944, leaving 90 percent of the city as a smouldering heap of rubble.

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since fleeing Tibet after a failed uprising in 1959 against Chinese rule.
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