Mairead Maguire, a Nobel Peace laureate who has dedicated her life to human rights and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, began the conference with a speech filled with fervent praise for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people. She called His Holiness the Dalai Lama "a great moral and spiritual leader in our world," a "wonderful example of interfaith dialogue," and "a model of reconciliation."
Maguire stated that by emphasizing nonviolent action in the face of injustice, Tibet's political and spiritual leader "shows us what compassion really means." She recalled His Holiness's trip to Belfast a few years ago, where he reminded Catholics and Protestants that "we have more in common than what divides us."
Jody Williams, an American who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her part in founding the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines, followed in the same tone. She said that after seeing the school and students in Dharamsala, she was encouraged by the Tibetan community's ability to thrive in exile, "to take the loss and not be beaten down, to not give up, to keep moving forward."
"I'm inspired by your progressive thinking in terms of wishing to preserve the culture, but to place that culture in today's world, and to educate these students for today while preserving yesterday," Williams told His Holiness.
Iranian Nobel recipient Shira Ebadi, a lawyer and activist who founded the Centre for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran, declared that His Holiness has, "taught a lot to the entire world."
She continued, "You are an example of what a perfect leader should be. A real government exists in the heart, not with the power of the sword...At a time when humanity and human rights are being forgotten, leaders like you are a beacon of hope to the whole world."
Ebadi affirmed her belief that in the long run, "truth and justice will prevail in Tibet," mentioning India's freedom struggle and the fall of the Soviet Union as proof that sustained movements of peaceful opposition can overcome oppressive governments.
All three women criticized China's human rights abuses, and urged world leaders to follow the example of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in providing honest and compassionate guidance.
"Leadership is not just economic power...real leadership is support for humanity, compassion, and human rights. It is what the people of Tibet stand for," proclaimed Williams. She and Ebadi also singled out US President Obama for his conciliatory stance toward China and his silence on the Tibetan issue.
The three women then read aloud a statement authored and signed by themselves and fellow Nobel Peace laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Adolfo Perez Equivel, Betty Williams, and Wangari Maathai.
In the letter, the eight Nobel laureates expressed their "grave concern about the survival of Tibetan identity" and offered their "support to His Holiness for his nonviolent efforts to attain meaningful autonomy for the Tibetan people."
The Nobel laureates' letter urged the Chinese government "to take immediate and constructive steps to resolve the status of Tibet and end the oppressive policies that continue to marginalize and impoverish Tibetans in their own land."
The statement also stressed the global importance of Tibetan culture, which the laureates described as embodying "universal values of compassion, tolerance, and a profound understanding of our interdependence with all living beings", qualities which "have much to offer the world as we seek to build a more peaceful, just, and sustainable global community in the 21st century."
After the statement was read, His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave a short address expressing his gratitude to the PeaceJam organizers for their "enormous effort," and to the three Nobel laureates, whose participation he termed "a blessing to many young Tibetans."
His Holiness then elaborated on the need for nonviolence and cooperation in the world today. He stated, "We learned from the 20th century that violence is only destruction, it's not really possible to solve problems through violence...Now we need a feeling of global interdependence."
He concluded by advising that the Tibetan struggle cannot be one-sided, but must be rooted in the cause of global well being, which includes the well being of the Chinese people.
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