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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

'Homeless' Dalai Lama visits US shelter for homeless

October 21, 2007

WASHINGTON, 19 Oct, (AFP) — The Dalai Lama began the spiritual leg of
a tour of the United States Thursday with a visit to a shelter for
women in Washington, where he brought himself to the level of the
residents by pointing out that he, too, was homeless.

"When I heard 'homeless people', my impression was that I myself, am
also homeless," the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet told a gathering
of several hundred people in the conference room of N Street Shelter
in Washington, where homeless and low-income women try to kick drug
habits and reclaim their dignity.

"At 16, I lost my freedom. When my age 24, I lost my own country. Now
I'm 72. So things are difficult but we never shake our hope or
determination," the Dalai Lama told the people gathered in the
five-storey red brick building in downtown Washington, through which
around 700 women pass each year.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 following a failed uprising against
China, which nine years earlier had forcibly annexed his mountain
homeland.

He has spent most of nearly five decades in exile in the northern
Indian town of Dharamsala, and campaigning for Tibet to be designated
a "zone of peace", for Tibetans' human and democratic rights, and for
China to enter into talks on the future of the mountain land.

The Dalai Lama has complained in the past that the vast influx of
ethnic Chinese into Tibet, and the industrialization of the
mountainous region, is destroying the Tibetan culture and environment.

At N Street, in a speech laced with humor and compassion that left few
eyes dry, the Dalai Lama only once mentioned China -- when he spoke
about development.

"Real transformation... is not to just develop big cities but also
rural areas," he said.

"In India, where I live, change must take place in rural areas. In
China as well.

"We cannot call a country 'developed' when big cities here and there
are developed but the countryside remains in a difficult situation,"
he said.

Earlier this month, China ordered 100,000 ethnic Tibetans to give up
their traditional nomadic lives and settle in towns, saying their way
of life is threatening the environment, the Chinese state press
reported.

The Dalai Lama praised N Street for its innovative programs, which
include bringing together residents with abandoned animals in Humane
Society shelters, and weekly meditation sessions run by a Buddhist
nun.

"Your work is very important and very long-sighted," he said,
referring in particular to the program under which women volunteer at
the local animal shelter.

"Eventually, we need some kind of worldwide movement for more
vegetarianism, to check those beef farms, poultry farms, fisheries and
shrimp," he said.

"One plate of shrimp, too many lives," said the Buddhist spiritual
leader -- who says in his autobiography that he is not vegetarian --
drawing another round of applause and laughter from the crowd.

Shatavia Young, who is trying to kick, once and for all, an addiction
to drugs and alcohol that began when she was 12, in one of the N
Street residents who volunteer once a week at Washington DC animal
shelters.

"When I was using, I wasn't going to take care of no animals or do no
meditation," Shatavia, who has been at N Street since July, told AFP.

"But this has made a difference. I look at those dogs, so hurt, so
beaten, and sometimes you almost think they're human, calling for
help. Just like I called for help and found myself here.

"I mostly play with them and train them, too, and it makes me feel
good to give them something and have it given back," said the
ebullient 22-year-old.

Like many of the other women, Shatavia had prepared a welcome speech
for the Dalai Lama, but when she met him face to face, she spoke
spontaneously.

"I told him, 'Thank you for coming into my home', because this is my
home for now," she said.

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