Compassion in Action in Southern Italy

June 25th 2012

Matera, Italy, 25 June 2012 - His Holiness the Dalai Lama is in Matera at the invitation of his friend and fellow Nobel Peace Laureate, Betty Williams, to support her work here to create a City of Peace, a place where refugees from war, hunger or social, economic, or political upheaval can be rehabilitated. Today, she escorted His Holiness to two of the sites where the work is going on. At the first, new buildings are under way and His Holiness said prayers for the success of the project. From there they drove to the Baronale Palace, Scanzano Jonico where they were welcomed by the Mayor and the President of the Region and took their seats on a stage overlooking the town square under the burning sun.

In her speech, Betty Williams looked forward to the day when people understand that non-violence is a weapon of the strong. She expressed her appreciation of Aung San Suu Kyi’s saying that war can be unlearned. She said it is time to listen to what children tell us and learn from them.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking at Baronale Palace in Matera, Italy, on June 25, 2012. Photo/Tony Vece
They were joined on the platform by an old friend of His Holiness’s, Marco Pannella the historic leader of the Italian Radical Party.

His Holiness began his address with his customary greeting,

“Brothers and sisters, we are all the same, none of us wants problems, we all want to live a peaceful life. And although that is what we want, we human beings tend to create a lot of problems for ourselves. Then, when we encounter those problems, anger develops and overwhelms our mind, which leads to violence. A good way to counter this and to work for a more peaceful world is to develop concern for others. If we do that, our anger, jealousy and other destructive emotions will naturally weaken and diminish.

“Like anyone else, I too have the potential for violence; I too have anger in me. However, I try to recall that anger is a destructive emotion. I remind myself that scientists now say that anger is bad for our health; it eats into our immune system. So, anger destroys our peace of mind and our physical health. We shouldn’t welcome it or think of it as natural or as a friend”

He explained that we need to understand how destructive emotions affect us and constructive emotions can help us, so that we can maintain our peace of mind.    

“People in every part of the world are fed up with violence; increasingly people are looking for ways to create peace. Start a project like this and people support it spontaneously.”

A large crowd listens to His Holiess the Dalai Lama speaking at Baronale Palace in Matera, Italy, on June 25, 2012. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
He said what we need is vision. Since the twentieth century was a period of great bloodshed we need to find ways of ensuring that the twenty-first century is an era of peace. Even if we are successful, that doesn’t mean there will be no problems, but that we’ll find new ways to deal with them, for this should be a century of dialogue.

“Instead of this land being used as a dump for nuclear waste, it is being transformed into a city of peace. What a wonderful idea? In this part of Italy and in this part of the world, this project will be like a seed of peace. We need to plant such seeds elsewhere. This is the beginning of a way to create a happier world, something that cannot be done by passing a UN resolution, but by ordinary people becoming involved, by bringing up children to be peaceful, and equipped for peace. Our need is to eliminate anger, not in some future life, but here and now in this very life. Let us try to build a more peaceful world.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Mayor of Sant’Arcangelo visiting the church of a monastery restored by Betty Williams on June 25, 2012. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
Betty Williams, who was accompanied by her daughter and granddaughter, as well as her sister, invited His Holiness to lunch. Afterwards, the whole party drove up to Sant’Arcangelo, location of an old monastery that had fallen into disuse and disrepair, which Betty and her companions have restored. They were received by the Bishop of Lageonegro and the Mayor, Domenico Esposito. They visited the monastery’s delightful church together and then stepped out into the courtyard where the public were waiting to hear them speak.

“How good it is to see so many people from different backgrounds here together, smiling! A smile is a mode of expression unique to human beings, a sign of trust and affection that is the basis of friendship. I really enjoy this sign of warmth and hope - wonderful!” were His Holiness’s opening words.

“Here in the courtyard of this old monastery,” he continued, “I remain a Buddhist monk. Since the 70s I have made it my practice to promote inter-religious harmony through pilgrimage to different places of worship. And today I’ve had the opportunity to stop and pray before the images of Jesus and Mary that remind us of God’s love. I’ve been very moved.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking in the courtyard of an old restored monastery in Sant’Arcangelo, Italy, on June 25, 2012. Photo/Tony Vece
“In conclusion, peace and religious harmony come about through taking action, not necessarily through making prayers and good wishes. In order to carry action out, enthusiasm is very important, and enthusiasm comes from being clear about our goal and the possibility of our fulfilling it. Here, we will educate young people about our ultimate goal, peace in the world, and how to fulfil it by cultivating inner peace within themselves. Thank you, that’s all.”

A local priest offered spontaneous words of thanks and appreciation for what is being achieved and the benefits it is bringing to the community. The local authority provided a forestry department helicopter to take His Holiness back to Matera quickly in the summer heat.

Early tomorrow morning he will leave for Milan where he is due to visit Ghe Pel Ling and give a talk to university students.

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