(Washington, D.C.) – A day after the United States’ deadliest-ever mass shooting, His Holiness the Dalai Lama led a Washington audience in a silent prayer for peace—but said prayers will be ineffective without “serious action” to erode religious and other communal divisions. Speaking to hundreds of U.S. government officials, scholars and civil society leaders at the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Buddhist spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate delayed his intended remarks, “because of this very serious tragedy in Orlando, let us [offer a] silent prayer.”
“We’ve talked a lot about your vision for the 21st century as being the century that is free from violent conflict,” said U.S. Institute of Peace President Nancy Lindborg. “This is very much the USIP vision and mission as well—how to find the tools, reach the people and who will be the builders of peace for the next century.”
The Dalai Lama visited USIP as part of a program with the Institute to strengthen the role of youth peace leaders in 13 countries that are facing warfare and violent extremism. The Dalai Lama last month offered support to 28 youth leadersconvened by USIP at his residence in Dharamsala, India. Both he and the Institute have called for a greater role for youth in ending or preventing violent conflict, which in recent years has concentrated in countries with youthful populations.
Two youth leaders who participated in the dialogue in India with the Dalai Lama said the experience had energized them for peacebuilding work in their home countries, Morocco and Nigeria. Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, who observed the program, called it a singular event. “I’m involved in a lot of think tanks, sponsored a lot of conferences, and they’re fine in their own way,” he told the audience. “But this work by USIP, it was what real influence looks like. I saw the passing of wisdom and passion to the next generation of leaders, leaders of movements, even future leaders of their own countries. They came away changed and I was privileged to witness it.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and actor Richard Gere were among the more than 200 audience members.
The Dalai Lama’s discussion with Nancy Lindborg helped to kick off USIP’s preparation for the United Nations-sponsored International Day of Peace (#PeaceDay) on September 21. The Institute has launched a#PeaceDayChallenge to encourage people, schools and other organizations to commit themselves to acts of peacebuilding for that day.