This Saturday, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama made two presentations in Montreal, one to a 500-person invite-only event hosted by McGill’s Faculty of Education, and a second to a crowd of 14,000 people at the Bell Centre.
The 74-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner felt compelled to request a private audience with education students after he learned of the provincial government’s introduction of a controversial ethics and religious culture class to primary and secondary students throughout Quebec.
During both addresses, the Dalai Lama emphasized the need for a balance between intellectualized faith and secular ethics.
“His Holiness was interested in speaking with students involved to support the notion that human values, ethical issues, and respect for religious and secular traditions is a positive initiative,” said education professor Spencer Boudreau, McGill’s ombudsperson and the main organizer of the event. “[Religion] is part of our culture and history; it’s a powerful force in the world [that] we’ve neglected,” Boudreau said.
Due to the limited tickets available for the McGill talk, the McGill organizing committee decided to stream the two-hour event on learnquebec.org, where it is still available to site users.
During the McGill address, the Dalai Lama stressed to education students that instilling a positive religious tolerance in youth was critical for a compassionate society.
“Please carry your profession with sincere motivation and a sense of global responsibility,” the Dalai Lama said. “At least, with some aim or goal [that] out of this century, a more compassionate world [will come].”
Mitchell Miller, the president of the Education Undergraduate Society, had the opportunity to sit with the Dalai Lama. Miller was selected to thank His Holiness on behalf of the anglophone universities in Quebec.
“Sometimes it feels like there is a lot of unnecessary self-deprecation among students in this faculty. [The Dalai Lama’s visit] was a reaffirmation for us as educators of the power that we can have,” Miller said.
Heather Monroe-Blum served as the master of ceremonies.
Later that day, during his presentation at the Bell Centre, His Holiness asserted that he had no political or spiritual agenda. Instead, he hoped to articulate the need of shared links between humanity, to be compassionate, and work to make the world a better place.
“I am talking as a human being to another human being. Not as a monk, Buddhist, or Tibetan,” he said.
Nonetheless, the event took on a political tone as Chinese and Uyghur protesters assembled outside. Tibet has been administered and controlled by the People’s Republic of China since it occupied the territory in 1950. The Dalai Lama, recognized as the exiled political leader of Tibet, fled the territory in 1959 and is seen as a threat to the national identity and integrity of China.
“It’s our country. We love it,”one Chinese protester said, standing calmly with several others in objection to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Montreal. A couple of Tibetans yelled at them to leave Canada and go back to China.
Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnic minority from Western China, also demonstrated in solidarity with the Tibetans. They called on China to recognize their human rights, stating that they were “the other Tibetans.”