On Thursday 18 April 2013, pupils and staff from Foyle College were delighted to be invited to attend the Great Hall in the Magee campus of the University of Ulster to listen to an interview between Professor Brandon Hamber, Director of INCORE (An International Centre for the Excellence for the Study of Peace and Conflict) and Honorary Graduate, and Nobel peace laureate His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
This interview was part of the “Life Stories” series, which are interviews with prominent Universityof Ulstergraduates and honorary graduates who have excelled in their chosen sphere. These one-to-one discussions offer audiences a rare opportunity to hear the personal account of the life and achievements of distinguished alumni. In October 2000 the Universityof Ulsterawarded His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters for his outstanding contribution to peace and reconciliation.
MageeUniversitywas His Holiness’ first engagement of the day where he was speaking on “Philosophies of Peace and Conflict”. During the interview, Prof Hamber asked His Holiness a number of questions, the first of which was whether or not he believed the world is becoming a better place. In response he first thanked his friend Richard Moore for his invitation to Northern Ireland. He spoke of his great admiration for his friend as despite being blinded by a plastic bullet when he was ten years old during the Troubles, he didn’t allow himself to become filled with feelings of anger, hatred and resentment. He stated that Mr Moore (now director of the charity Children in Crossfire) is now a happy, peaceful human being.
He continued to say:
“In the world at large it seems that people are becoming fed up with war and violence and the sense of ‘them’ and ‘us’ that provokes it is breaking down.”
When asked what his philosophy of peace is, he replied:
“Genuine peace comes about as a result of inner peace, so it starts on an individual level. Then you share it with your family and your neighbourhood. Inner peace is the basis of trust, the basis of friendship and so the basis of a wider peace in society and the world at large. Prayer doesn’t bring about peace, because it’s we who create the trouble, so it’s we who have to fix it.”
Prof Hamber asked if he was optimistic about Tibetand he commented that “what happens in Tibetis linked to what happens in China”. He stated that things are changing there so he is hopeful. He explained that the previous Prime Minister Wen Jiabao often spoke of the need for change and even democracy and the new leadership in Chinaseem to be taking a cue from Hu Yaobang’s approach. Hu Yaobang was the head of the Chinese Communist Youth in 1954 and later publicly apologised for what happened in Tibetin 1980. He stated that although he is hopeful it was too early to say.
One local businessman asked how we can remain encouraged as sometimes people can become tired of working for peace and reconciliation. His Holiness responded by saying that this kind of work is not a matter of choice, but something we have to do. As he frequently tells Tibetans, in the long run the people we are in conflict with are the people we have to live side by side, so we have to find a peaceful solution. Resorting to violence is pointless and getting caught up in the destructive emotions of anger, hatred and fear create unhappiness and bring nothing positive.
His Holiness concluded his interview by addressing those in the audience who were under 30 years old by saying:
“You truly belong to the twenty-first century generation; the future is in your hands.”
Pupils and staff who attended were very impressed. Louis Fields, Head Boy stated, “I expected it to be much more formal than it was… His Holiness was very funny…making jokes and laughing.”
Olivia Moore, Yr 14 Religious Studies student commented “Meeting the Dalai Lama was one of the most unique moments in my life so far. He seems a very benevolent and compassionate person”.
Both pupils and staff that attended felt incredibly privileged to have met His Holiness (with some even managing a hand shake) and will cherish the memory for many years to come.
Our thanks go to Sylvia Patton of Danske Bank for her kind invitation to this “Life Stories” event.