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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?"

Nobel laureates' talk turns personal

September 30, 2009

September 28th, 2009 - Canwest News Service

VANCOUVER - Growing up in 1950s Northern Ireland, Betty Williams was a
stubborn, strong-willed child, exasperating her mother so much that the
elder Williams took daily notes of her daughter's misdeeds to present to her
husband upon his return from work.

Williams, one of three Nobel Peace Prize laureates speaking with the Dalai
Lama in Vancouver Sunday, recalled her exhausted mother once pleading with
her husband to discipline their child.

"She told him, 'Our Betty needs a smack!'" said Williams.

"My father asked her, 'Have I ever hit you?'"

The answer was no.

"Then he said, 'Then why would I hit someone smaller than you?'"

Williams's story added a personal note to the varied ideas from the Nobel
laureates who came together on the University of B.C.'s Chan Centre stage to
define and explain compassion.

And when four Nobel laureates exchange ideas, those ideas are as diverse as
the minds that produced them.

But in the end, they came to consensus: Like Betty Williams's father, those
who exercise compassion must take action.

Compassion is not pity, sentiment or idle sympathy, but something that must
be acted upon.

"People get the wrong impression: that compassion is passive," said the
Dalai Lama.

American Jody Williams was much more blunt.

"Sensitivity is a waste of emotion, unless it gets you off your butt ... And
sensitivity without action? Just get a beer and watch soccer or something."

Their comments were made during Sunday's final Peace Summit talk, called
"Nobel Laureates in Dialogue: Connecting for Peace."

The Dalai Lama, who won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, shared the stage with
the co-winners of the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize - Mairead Maguire and Betty
Williams - who won for their work promoting an end to the Troubles in
Northern Ireland.

Jody Williams, coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines,
won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.

Also on the stage was Rev. Mpho Tutu, the founder of the Tutu Institute for
Prayer and Pilgrimage, and the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Ireland's former president Mary Robinson moderated the discussion.

It takes work and practise to develop what the Dalai Lama called unbiased
compassion, "one outside attachments, a sense of concern that can extend to
your enemy," the session was told.

"That kind of compassion is intimate and based on reasoning and wisdom."

Maguire, who co-founded the organization Community of Peace People after her
sister's three children were run down by an IRA fugitive on a Belfast street
in 1976, said it's important to recognize how nations are built on violent
practices, and work toward a more caring response.

"Every government is built around the ideals of the use of force," she said.

"Compassion is... suffering with people."

Jody Williams said global compassion will come when people confront power.

After the discussion, Gwen Greenwood, a follower of the Dalai Lama who
travelled from Victoria to attend the event, was teary-eyed.
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