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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."

Dalai Lama says inter-religious dialogue key to ending terrorism

May 4, 2015

By Kentaro Isomura and Tetsuo Kogure

The Asahi Shimbun, May 3, 2015 - Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, said terrorism carried out in the name of religion is a “very sad” reality facing the post-Cold War world and urged religious leaders to promote interfaith dialogue to break the chain of violence.

In an exclusive interview with The Asahi Shimbun in Gifu city in early April, the 79-year-old revered Buddhist monk also said that people need to respect other faiths and strive to see that everyone is the product of deities, or the “same son of God,” as monotheistic religions would phrase it, no matter the religion.

“The danger of a war, a third world war, including the nuclear threat, I think, is now basically no longer,” said the Nobel laureate, who won the Peace Prize in 1989. “Then, one sort of sad thing nowadays is violence also involves religious faith, and that is very, very sad.”

He added, “You see the concept of one religion, one truth. I think we Tibetans also sometimes say Buddhism is the only truth. But when we come outside more, make wider contact with different religious people and different religious traditions, then we realize on this planet there are many religious traditions.”

The Dalai Lama pointed out that religious conflicts are escalating not only in the Middle East but also in Buddhist countries such as Myanmar and Sri Lanka, where violent assaults targeting Muslim minorities have been reported.

The respected monk said he once discussed the issue with Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy leader from Myanmar. He said Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, acknowledged the complexity of the situation.

“Different religious traditions really help humanity, (and have done so) over thousands of years … giving immense inspiration to millions of people, in the future also,” the Dalai Lama said. “So, therefore we have to accept several truths, several religions, then I think conflicts over religion will automatically reduce.”

While he also said there are philosophical differences between Buddhism and monotheistic religions, the Dalai Lama said he understands that the latter’s concept of God can be very helpful to boost love for all humanity.

“Enemies today are also created by God–essentially the same sons of God. If you are really angry toward your enemy, then ultimately, you are angry toward God,” he said.

The Tibetan monk also emphasized that dialogue is the only way to break the vicious circle of violence that is occurring all over the world.

“Through military or violent ways, you may destroy some pockets, but that will not solve the problem. Violent methods simply control the human body, not the human mind,” he said. “It is very difficult, but through a nonviolent way, to meet with these people, talk to these people, then perhaps the majority eventually will change the mental attitude. That is my belief.”

He has urged religious leaders around the world to invite religious extremists, and even members of terrorist groups, to interfaith meetings to promote dialogue as part of a long-term strategy and effort to persuade them to turn away from violence.

With that said, he still laments the U.S. response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which resulted in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and ultimately led to the rise of the Islamic State extremist group.

On the very next day after the 2001 attacks, the Dalai Lama sent a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush urging him and his nation not to retaliate with violence, saying it would only result in more violence.

In addition to his efforts to promote interfaith dialogue, he said, in the long run, education can also play a key role in eradicating inter-religious conflict.

“Education brings more realistic attitudes because it brings knowledge, knowledge of the whole picture,” he said. “Once you know the whole picture, reality, then your actions become realistic.”

The Dalai Lama added that the world needs an ecumenical organization that is different from the United Nations, because the latter speaks only for governments around the world and not people.

“We should have some kind of body that truly represents humanity, so scientists, writers and retired leaders can represent the wishes of (the world’s) 7 billion human beings,” he said.

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