Dharamshala: When Richard Moore heard His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak for the first time about conflict, forgiveness and compassion it was like hearing someone articulating his true feelings; what Richard had always thought and felt, "Forgiveness is a gift to yourself'' the Dalai Lama said, and that's what I had always thought too, said Richard.
Richard Moore first met the soldier who blinded him, now almost forty years ago, in 2007. It was, he freely admits in a very understated way, a bit of an awkward meeting. Since then they have become friends meeting on several occasions and actually travelling together to Dharamshala, India to meet the Dalai Lama and give a talk there to School kids on forgiveness and compassion. And, as Richard has shown through his actions, these are not abstract notions but his real life principles.
I asked Richard how it feels to be the Dalai Lama's hero. ‘' [I'm] overwhelmed by the Dalai Lama's compassion...and the significance he has given to me in his life''. He is frankly amazed that he has ever even met the Dalai Lama (they met in 2001 in Belfast and have been friends ever since) and he still appreciates his message. ‘'I've coped with blindness through peoples compassion and generosity'' and that, he says, has given him great energy to go on and do the things he has done in his life.
And, for a relatively young man, he was fifty one this year, he has achieved a lot. He has a third level university degree, has run two successful businesses in his home town, and closest to his heart; he started up an NGO in 1997-Children in Crossfire-to help children in Ethiopia, Tanzania and The Gambia achieve their potential in school and in their communities as much as possible, in much the same as he has.
He started up Children in Crossfire to help children in need in very difficult circumstances. Blindness has become, to some degree, a positive experience in Richard's life because of peoples help, support and kindness. And, moreover, he wants to make sure that that kind of support and care is given to children who are in need of it in order for them to make something of their lives too.
His holiness the Dalai Lama came to Derry, Northern Ireland, in 2007 as guest of Richard's, who had invited him to become patron of his NGO Children in Crossfire. ‘'Richard I'm here, your friend, you're my hero'', he said getting off the plane, and to judge by Richard's expression when he told me this story, he still can't quite believe it's true.
‘'The Dalai Lama is one of the greatest people on the planet...and his message is more relevant today than ever'', says Richard. He also has warm words for the Tibetan people: they are a remarkable, peaceful people and they show an example to [the entire world]. Perhaps an example that the world should listen to much more: the principles of non-violence and compassion even for your aggressors.
With that we said goodbye and I wished Richard and his NGO luck for the future, and he wished me luck while working here in Dharamshala. Later I walked around Derry, once infamous across the world for conflict and trouble, and now a much quieter place largely free of tension and the trappings of war, largely I thought, due to people just like Richard, who work quietly and tirelessly to make it so.