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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Dalai Lama offers $100K to FIU religion department

May 28, 2009

By HILARY LEHMAN,  Associated Press Writer
Associated Press
May 27, 2009

MIAMI -- The Dalai Lama has offered $100,000 to
help an imperiled religion department at a
Florida university after receiving an e-mailed
plea for a letter of support from a longtime acquaintance on the faculty.

"He responded with this astounding, astounding offer," said Natha
n Katz, a professor in the Department of
Religious Studies at Florida International University. "I fell off my chair."

The department is one of three at FIU slated to
close in response to a $27 million cut in state
funding to the public university.

Katz said he e-mailed the Dalai Lama's office
last month after finding out the program was in
jeopardy and asked for a letter of support.

FIU received a letter from the Dalai Lama's
office this week offering $100,000 and his help
fundraising to prevent the planned closure of the department.

"In our deeply interconnected world,
understanding and appreciation of diversity of
religions is critical in fostering a culture of
genuine tolerance and peaceful coexistence," read
the letter from a secretary to the Dalai Lama,
the Tibetan Buddhist leader who has spent 50
years in exile after a failed uprising to oust
Chinese rulers. "If the department were to close
down, it will not be easy to rebuild."

Katz said he first met the Dalai Lama in 1973 as
a student studying the Tibetan language in India,
and was later a researcher at his library. The
Dalai Lama even wrote the introduction to Katz's first book.

Katz said he also thinks the Dalai Lama, who
received an honorary doctorate of divinity from
FIU in 1999 and returned in 2004, has "genuine affection" for the university.

FIU President Modesto Madique is drafting a
letter accepting the offer, an FIU spokesman said.

But the department isn't safe yet. Katz said the
department must raise about $5 million to create
an endowment that could fund the $600,000 yearly operating deficit.

Jack Fitzmier, director of the American Academy
of Religion, said there's no nationwide pattern
of budget cuts targeting religion departments.
However, he said state schools are under more pressure than private schools.
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