The Dalai Lama delivered a strong endorsement of the peace process during a visit to Northern Ireland yesterday.
The Tibetan Buddhist said that there were no alternatives to non-violence as, flanked by religious leaders, he symbolically crossed a bridge between Londonderry’s mainly Catholic west bank and largely Protestant east bank.
The city had one of the most troubled histories of any part of Northern Ireland during the 30-year conflict. The violence started there and the Bloody Sunday shootings became infamous.
But while dissident republicans maintain a presence – sectarian tensions have been high recently – the visit was intended to shore up efforts to emerge from violence.
The Dalai Lama said: “There is no other alternative to the peace process, there is no other choice, you have to work and live together so we should not act like animals.”
The spiritual leader met Church of Ireland Bishop Ken Good and Msgr Eamon Martin, who is expected to become the next leader of the Catholic church in Ireland.
They walked along the £14 million bridge designed to link two parts of the city which grew apart during the violence.
Some 300 schoolchildren from both sides of the community waving a variety of coloured flags lined the serpentine bridge stretching the length of two-and-a-half football pitches.
They applauded the elderly religious leader as they sang Peace Is Flowing Like A River.
Earlier, the Dalai Lama recommended close, realistic discussions by politicians or leaders but said politics should not be mixed with religion.
The Dalai Lama held the hand of Richard Moore, the blind founder of the charity Children in the Crossfire, and described him and his family as heroes after Mr Moore reconciled himself to the British soldier who shot and blinded him 40 years ago during the height of the Troubles.