Dalai Lama receives Pacem in Terris award

Barb Arland-Fye
Bishop Thomas Zinkula presents the Dalai Lama with the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award March 4 at the Dalai Lama’s residence in northern India. A renowned peacemaker, he also is a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

In his temple nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, more than 7,200 miles from Davenport, Iowa, the Dalai Lama received the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award from Bishop Thomas Zinkula on March 4.

The journey culminated a years-long dream of the interfaith Pacem in Terris Coalition of the Quad Cities to honor one of the world’s most respected peacemakers. Usually, the award’s distinguished recipients — including Martin Luther King Jr., Desmond Tutu and Dorothy Day — travel to Davenport to accept the award.

“It’s important to have world leaders accept the award in person so that they can share their message face to face with the people,” said Kent Ferris, who leads the Pacem in Terris Coalition. “But the Dalai Lama’s travel limitations meant that we needed to take the opportunity to go to India to honor him.”

The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhists, was forced to flee his homeland in 1959 following the brutal suppression of the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa by Chinese troops. He has lived in exile for 60 years in northern India, advocating nonviolently and steadfastly on behalf of the Tibetan people for preservation of their culture, language, religion and well-being. China views the Dalai Lama as a threat to its efforts to control Tibet and Buddhism.

“I was willing to travel halfway across the world to present the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award to him because he is the Dalai Lama. He has been promoting inner peace and world peace his entire life,” Bishop Zinkula said. When the Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, a statement was made that “It would be natural to compare him with Mahatma Gandhi, one of this century’s greatest protagonists of peace.”

During their 10-minute audience in a cozy room with comfortable couches and cameras flashing, the Dalai Lama greeted Bishop Zinkula with a handshake and broad smile. He listened attentively as the bishop shared a brief history of the award, identified coalition members and read the text inscribed in the framed award:

“The coalition recognizes your vision and your commitment to human rights, world peace and the nonviolent resolution of conflict.  It is clear from your words and deeds that you are a person who is deeply rooted in the spirit of peace. Your leadership to promote respect for the dignity and culture of the Tibetan people fills all oppressed people with hope that peace can overcome injustice.

“Your Holiness, you truly embody the words of Pope John XXIII in his encyclical Pacem in Terris as a ‘spark of light, a center of love, a vivifying leaven’ to your sisters and brothers around the world.”

The Dalai Lama appeared pleased when the bishop identified the groups — Christians, Jews and Muslims among them — who represent the interfaith coalition. Speaking in English, he described the award as a “great honor.” Despite different views among the religions of the world, all convey the “same message of love,” he said.

All human beings are children of God, the Father. “We truly are brothers and sisters,” the Dalai Lama continued. All human beings are of the “same nature. So we should all love one another, respect one another.” He called for loving kindness and forgiveness. “Today’s world really needs (the) peace message.”

He recalled that someone asked him at the time what it felt like to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. He said he told his questioner that as an individual, as a Buddhist monk, he felt no more, no less than before receiving the award. He viewed that award as recognition of “my little contribution” to world peace. And that’s the way he feels about the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award. He sees it as recognition of his “little contribution” to world peace. Now approaching his 84th birthday (in July), he told Bishop Zinkula that he has spent almost his entire life dedicated to inner peace and world peace.

In his short visit with the Dalai Lama, Bishop Zinkula said he could see that the peacemaker was mentally sharp and engaged. “There was a sense of vigor and vitality about him. He gave me his undivided attention while I spoke about the award and presented it to him. He exuded a sense of peace, love, joy and warmth.”

Members of the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Coalition are: the Diocese of Davenport; The Catholic Messenger; St. Ambrose University; The Presidential Center for Faith and Learning at Augustana College; Churches United of the Quad City Area; Islamic Center of Quad Cities; Quad Cities Interfaith, Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities; Muslim Community of the Quad Cities; Congregation of the Humility of Mary; Sisters of St. Benedict; Sisters of St. Francis (Dubuque, Iowa); Sisters of St. Francis (Clinton).

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An encounter with the Dalai Lama

Contributed
Barb Arland-Fye, Father Francis Bashyam and Bishop Thomas Zinkula meet with the Dalai Lama on March 4 in India.

By Barb Arland-Fye
Editor

Our chauffeur maneuvered his car up steep, alley-sized streets in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India. Colorful houses and open-air markets hugged one side of the foothills; sky-high trees and plunging open spaces defined the other side.

The breathtaking climb in the city of Dharamsala served as a metaphor. The car’s passengers — Bishop Thomas Zinkula, Father Francis Bashyam and I — awaited a mountaintop experience on March 4 with one of the world’s preeminent peacemakers: the Dalai Lama.

Bishop Zinkula anticipated presenting the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award to the Dalai Lama, the 83-year-old spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhists and 1989 Nobel Peace Prize recipient. TIME magazine just published a cover feature on him. People worldwide admire this humble, Buddhist monk for his lifelong commitment to nonviolence and world peace. For 60 years in exile, he has advocated for the preservation of the culture, language and well-being of his fellow Tibetans.

My dream assignment to cover this award presentation half a world away from home was moving closer to reality. Fr. Bashyam, a close friend of Bishop Zinkula who served as our guide in India, also looked forward to meeting the Dalai Lama. His priority, however, was the logistics to make this encounter happen!

Arriving the day before the audience, we took a walking tour of the Dalai Lama’s temple complex and the open-air markets. Vendors hawked everything from tea, baked goods and hot food to Buddha figurines, artwork, books and clothing.

Earlier that day on the shuttle bus to the airport, the bishop struck up a conversation with an Australian who, captivated by her first visit 15 years ago, moved to Dharamsala. She encouraged the bishop to walk the “kora,” a path circling the temple complex. And so we did. Colorful prayer flags fluttered above us and we spun prayer wheels along with other hikers. The bishop posed for photos with monks wearing maroon robes. Water buffalo crossed our path. So did a few young male beggars with scrawny frames, crippled legs and pleading looks on their faces.
The following morning we walked the short distance from our hotel to the temple complex. I clutched the large cloth bag holding the framed peace award. Large groups of people mingled inside and outside the reception area — our first stop before advancing to the Dalai Lama’s home in the temple complex. Security officers collected our passports for inspection. Still others screened our packages and us.

After a few tense moments regarding whether or not I had permission to take my iPhone into the Dalai Lama’s residence, we got the OK and were escorted to a sitting room. We sat on padded benches and talked with another group waiting to see the Dalai Lama.

Bishop Zinkula’s 10-minute audience was to take place between 10 and 11 a.m. At 11:20 a.m., he was still waiting. And we had a plane to catch, back down that picturesque mountain, to another event. As the bishop pondered whether to cancel that long-planned event, the group ahead of us insisted that we move ahead of them. What a blessing!

We were escorted quickly into what looked like a living room. The Dalai Lama rose from his chair, with a bit of assistance, to greet us. A warm smile formed on his face and he extended his hand to each of us.

He listened attentively as Bishop Zinkula explained the purpose of the Pacem in Terris award and identified the interfaith groups that choose the award recipients. I took photos on my iPhone and so did Fr. Bashyam and a photographer with the Dalai Lama. That relieved my fear of leaving without photos!

Our 10 precious minutes with the Dalai Lama passed swiftly. He motioned for the three of us — Bishop Zinkula, Fr. Bashyam and me — to join him for a photo together. He treated us like friends. Peacemaking begins in moments like this.

(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at arland-fye@davenportdiocese.org)

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