Sicily, Italy — “Many of the problems we face come about because we insist on exaggerating secondary differences of nationality, colour and even faith. This misplaced emphasis leads to division. It’s unacceptable. We need to think more deeply and recognize the oneness of humanity and that as human beings we are much the same," His Holiness said upon his arrival in Italy on September 15th, where he was publicly awarded for his promotion of peaceful solutions to conflicts.
Arriving at the Greek Theatre where more than 2500 people were waiting, the Mayors of Catania and Messina presented His Holiness with an award from the Metropolitan City of Messina in recognition of his promotion of peace and solidarity in the world and in appreciation of his commitment to dialogue.
Addressing the crowd His Holiness said:
“Brothers and sisters, I’m honored to have received this award and happy to be here with this chance of talking to you. In this ancient place I am reminded of the Indus Valley civilization and the Nalanda Tradition it eventually gave rise to. Among the cultures of the ancient world, the Indus Valley civilization seems to have given rise to many thinkers and philosophers. The Buddha’s instruction about dependent arising, indicating that nothing exists independently and that everything depends on other factors, resonates with the contemporary quantum physics assertion that nothing exists objectively.
“Today, despite great material development, we and our leaders are facing an emotional crisis. Although Buddhist literature has much to say about this, tackling our negative emotions has nothing to do with religion as such. But what the thinkers of ancient India have to say about our mind and emotions is important and relevant in the modern world.
“The global economy and the effects of climate change recognize no national boundaries. What they are teaching us is that we should act more as one human community. We are enjoying peace and tranquillity here, even if it is quite hot, but in other places right now other people are being bullied, killed or facing starvation. It’s unbearable.
“Many of the problems we face come about because we insist on exaggerating secondary differences of nationality, colour and even faith. This misplaced emphasis leads to division. It’s unacceptable. We need to think more deeply and recognize the oneness of humanity and that as human beings we are much the same.
“Peace in the world can’t be brought about by use of force. Peace is a state of mind. The use of violence provokes anger and yet more violence. We need to reduce anger and fear by offering friendship. Once again I have to say I admire the spirit of the European Union, which has adopted the more holistic view that we have to live together and we’re better to do it as friends."
On September 17th, His Holiness gave a public talk in Messina, where the Mayor, Renato Accorinti welcomed the Nobel Laureate, and accompanied him on-stage of the Vittorio Emanuele Theatre.
“This is an extraordinary moment for our city,” he said, as he introduced His Holiness. “We’re happy to have you here and to feel your presence among us. We have a responsibility to bring peace to the world. Yesterday, you spoke at the Greek Theatre, so many people have heard your message, but we need to think about it and digest it. My mission has been to bring you to Sicily to talk to us."
Mayor Accorinti was joined by another city official to bestow Messina’s ‘Builder of Peace, Justice and Nonviolence Prize’ for the first time upon His Holiness. There is no peace without justice, he declared and justice can only be achieved through nonviolence.
“My respected spiritual brother,” he began, acknowledging the Archbishop, “my good friend Renato, supporter of truth and justice, brothers and sisters, I’m extremely happy to be here and to have received this award. I’m now more than 82 years old and although I decided it would be too far to travel to the USA next month, here I am in Europe and in Italy because I’ve been invited by old friends—people who are friends on a genuine, human level.
“The reality today is that the global economy and climate change have no respect for national or religious boundaries—they affect us all. Here in Europe, after the destruction of two World Wars the idea of the European Union emerged resulting in peace for more than half a century. In future Russia should be included and the idea of similar unions extended to Africa, Latin America and Asia. While the UN seems to be a union of governments, we must explore a worldwide union of peoples. Our dream of peace will only be fulfilled in a demilitarized world. This is something I request my Christian brother to pray for.”
His Holiness took questions from the audience, first fielding a question about his personal life. The spiritual leader replied:
“Generally Tibetans are cheerful people,” he replied. “One factor in this is that we are a small population living in a huge space, but our community spirit is strong. As I have found elsewhere in the mountains of North India, it was our custom not to lock our doors and to welcome any visitors who appeared.
“In my own family, my sisters and brothers were always laughing and joking. I was taken from them when I was about five years old to be brought up as the Dalai Lama. In the palace, officials were formal, but the sweepers were open and friendly. It was they who gave me real news and played with me."
His Holiness is scheduled to give a public talk in Palermo tomorrow.