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Dalai Lama, Tutu awarded forgiveness prizes

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (RNS) After a worldwide search, the first $100,000 Fetzer Prizes for Love and Forgiveness were awarded Sunday (Sept. 27) to the Dalai Lama and retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. “We wanted this prize to recognize people who live with the reality of fear and violence and yet are inspiring examples of […]

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (RNS) After a worldwide search, the first $100,000 Fetzer Prizes for Love and Forgiveness were awarded Sunday (Sept. 27) to the Dalai Lama and retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

“We wanted this prize to recognize people who live with the reality of fear and violence and yet are inspiring examples of both the promise and power of love, forgiveness and compassion,” Tom Beech, president of the Michigan-based Fetzer Institute told more than 1,000 people at the 2009 Vancouver Peace Summit.

The Dalai Lama, 74, accepted the prize on behalf of his Tibetan Buddhist community, while Tutu’s daughter, the Rev. Mpho Tutu, accepted on behalf of her 78-year-old father, who had to cancel due to a back injury.

“For more than 50 years, each of you has faced with great courage a world that is weary from being in the grasp of fear and violence. In the face of disruption, you have brought calm,” Beech told the Dalai Lama and Tutu.

“You come from different places in the world and you each celebrate your own religious traditions, and yet you show us how to honor and respect people of all faiths and beliefs. You model this through your lovely friendship with each other.”

Although unable to attend the Vancouver Peace Summit, Tutu sent his greetings through a video clip. The audience laughed when the famous Anglican anti-apartheid activist talked on the giant screen about how his friendship with the Buddhist leader has made a mockery of the idea that “God is a Christian.”

When the Dalai Lama dies and shows up at the gates of heaven, Tutu said, he couldn’t imagine any smart person believing that “God will say, `Oh hello Dalai Lama, you were a wonderful guy. What a shame you were not a Christian.”‘

In addition to sponsoring the humanitarian prize, the Fetzer Institute is a major financial supporter of the “Charter for Compassion,” a collaborative effort launched by British religion writer Karen Armstrong to build a harmonious global community.

Armstrong, who was also attending the Vancouver Peace Summit, told the audience that the Compassion Charter, which is being written by a cross-section of global spiritual leaders, will be unveiled formally in Washington, on Nov. 12.