Dalai Lama takes his message of goodwill to Belfast

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The Independent Online

The front line between the Falls and the Shankill has been a constant reminder of a communal failure to live together, the scene of many shootings and bombings, a symbol of religious and ethnic confrontation.

The front line between the Falls and the Shankill has been a constant reminder of a communal failure to live together, the scene of many shootings and bombings, a symbol of religious and ethnic confrontation.

But yesterday was different. There, at one of the grimmest spots in Belfast, more than 1,000 people had gathered to hear the Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, exuding benevolence.

It was surreal to see an international figure, speaking against the bleakest of physical backgrounds, advising people to view their differences positively and draw energy from them. During his brief stay, the sense of goodwill was palpable.

When he arrived, the Dalai Lama proved to be a small bespectacled man with an infectious smile. Flanked by a Protestant minister and a Catholic priest, he spoke of Northern Ireland as a beautiful country with beautiful people "but an unhappy situation".

He spoke of the negative emotions generated "when human emotion goes out of control", but said he tried to minimise these so as to keep calm and retain peace of mind. He recommended dialogue, and said people should try to draw energy from different opinions and forces.

He spoke in a conversational tone, setting out these complex ideas simply. As he spoke he smiled, and as he did so many of his audience smiled back at him. The result was, momentarily at least, to turn the usually forbidding and unfriendly front line into a little oasis of goodwill and good vibrations.

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