(TibetanReview.net, Oct17, 2016) – On the last of his three-day visit to Switzerland on Oct 14, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, took part in an interfaith prayer service in the Grossmünster Church, Zurich. About 1,000 people packed the church. Pastor Christoph Sigrist introduced the Dalai Lama to representatives of the Evangelical Church, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and the Roman Catholic Church before they all entered the church together. President Mario Fehr of the Zurich Canton presented the city’s Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama.
The event began with each representative being invited to offer a prayer, beginning with Tibetan Buddhist monks from Zurich’s Rikon Monastery. They all prayed in their own way for peace and justice among humanity. The prayers concluded with the church’s choir singing Heinrich Schütz’s ‘Grant us peace graciously’.
Then, before inviting the Dalai Lama to speak, President Mario Fehr said, “On behalf of the Canton Government and the people of Zurich, I am very thankful that you are all here and that you have joined us to pray for peace today.”
In his speech the Dalai Lama stressed the common inherent characteristics and interests that bind all humanity together. He pointed out, “scientists are finding evidence to conclude that basic human nature is compassionate. We depend on each other for our survival. In terms of the threats we all face from climate change, national boundaries have no meaning. Looking at our small blue planet from space no such boundaries can be seen. This is the reality today. We have to think of the welfare of all humanity.”
He then spoke about his own efforts at promoting happiness through understanding, stressing that the common aim of all religions, despite their philosophical differences, is to create more compassionate people. He emphasized the importance for followers of different religions simply to get to know each other, meeting to discuss and exchange their experiences. This had enabled him, he said, to understand, for example, that Muslims who commit bloodshed are no longer proper Muslims; that ‘jihad’ actually refers to a struggle within to tackle our disturbing emotions.
He also stressed that although we pray to god or the Buddha for peace, the reality remained that the problems and conflict were created by us and so we all should make a personal commitment to promote inter-religious harmony and to cultivate compassion within ourselves.
The event, which was also watched by some 700 people on a monitor outside, concluded with Pastor Sigrist announcing that Syrian refugees who had been offered shelter in apartments attached to the church had prepared a lunch for the religious leaders, representatives and guests. The Gold Medal presentation was made towards the end of the meal.