Birmingham, Alabama: - The spiritual leader of Tibet His Holiness the Dalai Lama attended a series of events in Birmingham, Alabama on October 26. He started by meeting with 350 Tibetans who traveled from New York, New Jersey and Minnesota to show solidarity with him.
The Tibetan spiritual leader said change would come in China when the current leadership, which is made up of people who remember the hardships of the Cultural Revolution, is replaced by new generations who have studied abroad and experienced freedom and democracy.
He said it might be wishful thinking on the part of democracy activists who expect this change to happen soon and it could take another 10-15 years.
Underscoring the importance of education, he said young Tibetans both in Tibet and elsewhere need to acquire a good education so that they will be able to stand on their own feet when the opportunity arises.
During his speech he referred to the pro-Shugden demonstrators on the street and said they are exercising their right to freedom of speech. He also spoke of the demonstrators on October 24 while addressing members of his community in Vancouver, Canada, calling the demonstrators "misinformed" and said he felt sorry for them. "I'm not worried, the truth will come out. Some of the demonstrators are Tibetans. I feel sorry for them and don't feel anger towards them," he said.
Later in the Alabama Theatre, His Holiness joined religious leaders for an interfaith panel discussion titled "Beyond Belief".
Responding to a question on the extent we should be patient or impatient with regard to human rights, the 1989 Nobel Laureate said, "We all want to live a happy life and this is our basic right. But to achieve happiness our efforts should be realistic, if they are unrealistic we won't gain satisfactory results." Impatience, he said, "can be a source of failure".
Touching on the subject of religion, His Holiness took up the point about whether we should think of one religion and one truth. He said that whether we like it or not, there are different religious traditions in the world. They all convey the same message of love, compassion, forgiveness and tolerance, despite differing in their philosophical views.
He concluded that the idea of one religion, one truth is fine on an individual, personal level, but on the level of society at large we need to think in terms of several religions and several truths.
The Tibetan spiritual leader also addressed negativity toward Islam and said that all major religions carry a message of love, "That includes Islam, which is one of the world's great religions. A Muslim friend told me that a genuine Muslim must extend love to all the creatures of Allah and that one who causes bloodshed is no longer a true Muslim. Moreover, the real definition of jihad is the struggle we have with our own destructive emotions."
The interfaith discussion was part of Birmingham's human rights week, which also included His Holiness visiting Regions Field baseball stadium accompanied by the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. He left Birmingham on October 28 for Philadelphia and Princeton.