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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Faculty of Education welcomes Dalai Lama to McGill

October 8, 2009

by Adam Scotti McGill Tribune - 10/6/09

Addressing a crowd of 500 education students and faculty in Pollack Hall,
the Dalai Lama brought his message of religious tolerance and compassion for
others to McGill this past Saturday.

After visits to Vancouver and Calgary, the 74-year-old exiled spiritual
leader of Tibet chose Montreal as his third and final stop in Canada. McGill
was first approached a year ago by the office of the Dalai Lama to host a
talk between his Holiness and education students from six French and English
Quebec universities.

The Quebec Ministry of Education's controversial introduction of a
compulsory ethics and religions course sparked the Dalai Lama's interest in
holding an event in Quebec. He applauded the province's efforts to teach
tolerance in a secular setting, saying that "compassion, ethics and ecology
should be a part of education."

Throughout his speech, the Dalai Lama covered topics such as compassion,
religious tolerance, and society's obsession with money. When Principal
Heather Monroe-Blum asked a question on behalf of a Laval student on the
definition of religion, the Dalai Lama responded that "religion means
individualism," and that individualism has a place in a greater religious

Martina Bols, a U4 education student, saw this insight as an important point
for future teachers who will face the challenge of balancing ethics
education and secularism in the classroom.

"As individuals we have to exemplify compassion and understanding and in
order to extend that to our students and to teach them about ethics and
about how to make the world a better place," said Bols.

While the talk focussed on the importance of teaching religious tolerance
and morality to today's youth, there was no mention of the ongoing political
tension between the Dalai Lama's exiled Tibetan government and the People's
Republic of China.

"The talk was about religion, ethics, and education," said Mitchell Miller,
U3 education and president of the Education Undergraduate Society. "There
was no political agenda."

Instead, the talk remained lighthearted and stimulating. When addressing the
issues of marriage and divorce, the Dalai Lama emphasized the importance of
inner peace and understanding in tough times, but finally conceded with a
big smile on his face, "I am a monk, it is none of my business."

McGill University's Ombudsperson Spencer Boudreau, the event organizer,
highlighted the Dalai Lama's visit as an enlightening experience for both
students and faculty.

"[We all] need a community, [we] need some spirituality, [we] need
direction, [we] need guidance, [we] need discipline, and someone like his
Holiness helps with that direction," said Boudreau, who compared the
atmosphere around the room before meeting the Dalai Lama to that of meeting
a celebrity.

"You know you used to say 'Elvis is in the building' - this was bigger than
Elvis," said Boudreau.

The Dalai Lama showed a keen interest in the crowd, taking out a visor to
reflect the stage lights so he could better see the next generation of
teachers in attendance. At the end of the talk, Ophélie Lemieux, a
University of Montreal education student, and Mitchell Miller thanked him on
behalf of the students in attendance for his visit and inspirational words.

Both students had prepared to express their appreciation from the podium,
but were instead motioned by the Dalai Lama to stand beside him while he
held their arms and listened intently. He also presented Miller, Lemieux,
and Munroe-Blum with khatags, Tibetan ceremonial scarves.

"[It was] surprising for the most part ... to be invited next to him and
have a physical connection with him, it was really special," said Miller.
"No matter his age, he still has wisdom to share, [and he] should continue."

The Dalai Lama will return to the United States before continuing the second
part of his world tour in Oceania.
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