Video: Dalai Lama says 'no other alternative to peace process' during visit to Derry
Published 18/04/2013 | 18:11
The Dalai Lama has delivered a strong endorsement of the peace process during a visit to Northern Ireland.
The Tibetan Buddhist said there were no alternatives to non-violence as he symbolically crossed a bridge between Londonderry's mainly Catholic west bank and largely Protestant east bank flanked by religious leaders.
Londonderry had one of the most troubled histories of any part of Northern Ireland during the 30-year conflict - the violence started there and the Bloody Sunday shootings of civil rights protesters by British soldiers became infamous.
But while dissident republicans maintain a presence in the city - sectarian tensions have been high recently - the visit of the peace champion was intended to shore up efforts to emerge from violence.
The Dalai Lama said: "There is no other alternative to the peace process, there is no other choice, you have to work and live together so we should not act like animals."
The spiritual leader met Church of Ireland Bishop Ken Good and Msgr Eamon Martin, who is expected to become the next leader of the Catholic church in Ireland.
They walked along the £14 million pedestrian bridge - opened in 2011 and designed to link two parts of the city which grew apart during the violence.
Around 300 school children from both sides of the community waving a variety of brightly coloured flags lined the serpentine bridge stretching the length of two and a half football pitches.
They applauded the elderly religious leader as they sang Peace Is Flowing Like A River.
Earlier, the Dalai Lama recommended close, realistic discussions by politicians or leaders but said politics should not be mixed with religion.
He warned people should not act out of frustration, which only hardened people's positions.
"There would be more benefit through finding solutions, that is the only sensible, realistic way, sit together, talk and consider your own brothers and sisters," he said. "We live side by side, that is the reality, the political situation. Majority rule is not desirable."
The Dalai Lama held the hand of Richard Moore, the blind founder of the development charity Children in the Crossfire, and described him and his family as heroes after Mr Moore reconciled himself to the British soldier who shot and blinded him 40 years ago during the height of the Troubles.
Mr Moore said: "The Peace Bridge is a symbol of the future as are the children of this area."We hope that by bringing together the heads of two of our local churches in the spirit of His Holiness, the children of our area and the culture of compassion from our organisation... we can create a real legacy of peace."
A journalist, Marian Shanley West, asked the Dalai Lama for a hug, and he responded with a long embrace. Another audience member had travelled from Spain to ask a question.
He delivered a speech on the value of compassion before 2,500 people at a centre on the former Ebrington army barracks, now turned into a civic space, bowing humbly with palms pressed together as they gave him a standing ovation. He mixed a concern for development with humour and humility and stressed the value of education, particularly in empowering people from the developing world.
He is living in exile in India after Tibet was taken over by China and was asked about the Himalayan territory's future."The Tibet issue is very, very hopeful," he said."I believe within my lifetime definitely I will have the opportunity to return to Tibet.
"Those performing ahead of the Dalai Lama's speech included Irish folk singer Christie Moore and the Contested Spaces Children's Choir. The religious leader said responsibility for creating a better future was passing to a new generation."You have the opportunity to create a better world so think more wisely and work hard, that is very, very important," he said.