Twentieth Anniversary of Children in Crossfire
Derry, N Ireland, UK – His Holiness the Dalai Lama yesterday flew from India to London, arriving just as a downpour came to an end and the sun came out. This morning he took off again under blue skies to make the short flight to Derry, Northern Ireland, where it was raining once more. During a short respite, His Holiness was welcomed by his host, Richard Moore. They embraced and His Holiness invited Moore, who cannot see, to touch his face. “Just as handsome as ever!” was his report.
Arriving at the hotel in Derry, on the western banks of the Foyle River, the Tibetan flag flew aloft while Tibetans offered a traditional welcome in the lobby. Many other well-wishers and friends were on hand to greet His Holiness. Shortly afterwards, at the Everglades Hotel, Richard Moore introduced Marcus O’Neill, Chairman of the Board of Children in Crossfire, and other members of the board, to His Holiness . Friends and supporters of the NGO, whose aim is ‘Giving children the chance to choose’, were gathered for lunch. Moore showed His Holiness a large illustrated display depicting Children in Crossfire’s work.
Invited to address the gathering, His Holiness laughed and told them that when your stomach is empty, what’s important is to eat lunch. Bishop Donal McKeown responded to Moore’s request that he say grace—“Make us not like porridge, thick, stodgy and hard to stir, but like corn-flakes, light, quick and easy.”
At the end of the meal, at Richard Moore’s request His Holiness presented tokens of appreciation to three members of Children in Crossfire’s board: Rose Kelly, Joe Murray and Don Mcleish.
When His Holiness and Richard Moore arrived at the nearby Millennial Forum, the Long Tower Folk Group, conducted by Moore’s wife, Rita, was singing a song of peace. His Holiness greeted an audience of more than 1000 when he came on stage and Moore gave a short introduction. He remarked that His Holiness has said that compassion without corresponding action is not enough. He added that there are children alive today, children with access to clean water and education, as a result of the action of Children in Crossfire. He described His Holiness as “representing something we’d all like to be”. He ended, “Ours is a city of many names—Derry, Londonderry, Legendderry, and you are welcome here once more.”
“My dear respected brother,” His Holiness responded, “I usually describe you as my hero. When I first met you and heard your story, (of being blinded as a child, but going on to work for others,) I was much moved. I often talk about compassion, but I wonder if I had undergone the same experience as you, if I wouldn’t have lost my temper. You’ve shown such inner strength and your work to establish Children in Crossfire shows what it really is to be human. What you have experienced transformed your life. Instead of provoking your anger, it has strengthened your compassion. Wonderful!
“Compassion is an emotion that brings all social creatures together. Scientists tell us they have evidence that basic human nature is compassionate. I’ve seen an experiment in which infants, still too young to speak, were shown animated clips of different behaviour. They responded with pleasure and approval to the one that showed people helping each other, and turned away from the one that showed people being obstructive.
“Physicians say constant anger and fear undermine our immune system. Meanwhile, no doctor tells you that if you were angrier you’d be in better health. They advise you to relax, which means not only being physically at ease, but finding peace of mind too. Compassion brings us self-confidence and inner strength.
“When I heard scientists say that basic human nature is compassionate, I felt it was a sign of hope. Whatever our religious faith, showing others loving kindness is the best way to bring about inner peace. I am committed to promoting fundamental human values like compassion. What we need today are universal values based not on faith but on scientific findings, common experience and common sense. Just as we preserve our health by observing physical hygiene, we can protect our inner well-being by tackling our destructive emotions and cultivating emotional hygiene.”
His Holiness suggested that fear and anger are rooted in self-centredness, being obsessed with ourselves and what we think we need. Being more concerned about others and taking compassionate action on their behalf, on the other hand, is the basis for living a happy life here and now. He said that it’s on such grounds that we can hope to make the 21st a more peaceful century.
“Peace will not be achieved by force. We need to take a human approach to resolving human problems. Talk and dialogue based on candour and respect are the foundation on which to build peace. I’m an admirer of the European Union and the spirit of the decision to put the common good ahead of narrower national interests. Similarly, I have some reservations about the slogan ‘American first’ and the US’s withdrawal from the Paris accord. It seems to me that the natural disasters we’ve witnessed in recent days have been trying to teach us something about climate change. However, if I’ve said anything wrong, I apologise.”
Answering questions from the audience His Holiness compared our pursuit of sensory pleasure to the experience of a Catholic monk he met in Montserrat in Spain who told him that in his five years as a hermit in the mountains he had meditated on love. His Holiness reported that when he said this his eyes sparkled with joy.
He remarked that although young women like to make up their faces to enhance their looks, if they then adopt an angry expression, no one will want to look at them. He talked about teasing a disrobed monk official that his wife was not especially pretty and the official’s reply that it was true, but that her inner beauty—her warm-heartedness—was tremendous.
Asked what was the one thing he really enjoyed, His Holiness answered immediately to laughter from the audience, “O, lunch—because as a Buddhist monk I don’t eat dinner!”
A question about grief prompted His Holiness to recall that when his Senior Tutor passed away, he felt as if the solid rock on which he had always leaned was gone. He was at a loss. However, he decided that what he should do was to try to fulfil his tutor’s wishes for him. “So it’s better to try to transform your sadness into a determination to lead life in a meaningful way. Richard Moore here is an example of transforming tragedy into opportunity.”
His Holiness declared, in answer to another question, that it’s wonderful to be vegetarian if you can. He reported that in the Tibetan exiled community the kitchens of large monasteries, schools and other institutions are now vegetarian. He noted that some Buddhist traditions recommend their followers to be vegetarian, but others don’t. The Buddha advised his monks who begged for alms to simply accept what they were given. He admitted that for health reasons his physicians had advised him to follow a non-vegetarian diet some of the time.
He recommended someone who asked about patience to read Chapter 6 and Chapter 8 of Shantideva’s ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’. He similarly advised that the path to increasing interest in and support for ecology was education. His Holiness concluded,
“If we make an effort we can change the world. Those who are still young can make a difference and shape a better future. For my part, I try to encourage interest in inner values and I believe that if I influence ten people and each of them does the same, we’ve reached one hundred. And so it goes on. This is the way to educate people.”
The event ended with other singers joining the Long Tower Folk Group to sing about the power of love and peace. His Holiness sat listening and expressed his appreciation at the end. He saluted the audience and shook outstretched hands from the front of the stage before waving goodbye and returning to his hotel.
Tomorrow he will attend a Children in Crossfire conference on the theme ‘Educating the Heart’.