His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was greeted by a nearly full house in Syracuse University's Goldstein Auditorium Monday for the highly anticipated two-day forum, "Common Ground for Peace.”
"We're actually the same human being, emotionally, mentally, even physically,” said the Dalai Lama as he explained the forum's main theme.
He emphasized the idea of the "oneness of humanity," referencing the open minds of children who are unconcerned with concepts like social background and wealth.
The morning panel discussion, "The Rise of Democracy in the Middle East," began shortly after 9 a.m., following a performance by musical group Voices of Afghanistan.
The discussion was part of a two-day forum bringing leaders and international artists together in an effort to promote peace through communication.
The morning panel was made up of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama; Nobel Peace Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei; the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency R. James Woolsey; Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi; founder of the Moral Courage Project at New York University, Irshad Manji; and former U.N. ambassador Andrew Young.
The Dalai Lama noted the number of wars he has witnessed during his life, including World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. He said that he has seen a change in the way countries’ citizens react to their governments deciding to go to war because people have started asking why.
“The past is past, we can learn about past from past, some experience, otherwise nothing can be done,” said the Dalai Lama. In the past, countries like the United States didn’t care about what was happening in other countries, and now they do, he said.
Manji, the founder of the Moral Courage Project at NYU, noted the importance of having the freedom to question, whether it’s regarding government policies or general ideas, as “a basic human right.” She said she believes questioning leads to growth and, in turn, democracy.
For ElBaradei, Nobel Peace Laureate, there is no framework for democracy. He said he believes it’s important to understand how we’re connected globally. That global connectivity ties in with the Dalai Lama’s belief that “globalization shows the oneness of humanity.”
Photo by Maddy Jones
The discussion did not focus on one topic, which Woolsey, former director of the CIA, applauded because it allowed the panelists to address a variety of themes. Woolsey also stressed the importance of working towards justice to achieve peace, including decent treatment for women.
Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate, agreed and said when Arab women gain equal rights throughout the Middle East, then she’d address the concept of an Arab Spring.
“What can cause everlasting peace in a society is social justice and democracy,” Ebadi said. “Temporary peace can be disrupted at any moment, like the revolution the Middle East that the Western world is referring to as the Arab Spring.”
She said the people rose up in rebellion against the status quo, and managed to kick out their country’s dictator; but his departure is not synonymous with democracy.
For Young, former U.N. ambassador, the simplest kind of justice is everyone having access to clean water.
"If everyone had clean, fresh water that would wipe out 40 or 50 diseases" said Young. “Peace for the wealthy is security; peace for the poor is bread and water.”
The Dalai Lama also discussed the suffering that is felt throughout certain areas of the world and the violence that is generated from it. “Jealousy brings distrust, distrust brings frustration, frustration eventually develops violence,” he said.
Despite the serious nature of certain themes during the discussion, the Dalai Lama managed to keep the atmosphere light, cracking jokes and laughing throughout his responses.
As the discussion came to a close, Curry relayed a Twitter question from a Syracuse University student who asked, ‘what comes after peace?” In his response, the Dalai Lama explained genuine peace must come through inner peace, and once inner peace is achieved it will lead to peace of mind.
"A healthy body and a healthy mind are very close," the Dalai Lama said.
The panel concluded with a performance by TEAL-ONE97, a multicultural group known as the “Ambassadors of Love,” who were inspired by the Arab Spring.