Dalai Lama visits Alabama church at center of civil rights movement

Sat Oct 25, 2014 11:04pm EDT
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By Sherrel Wheeler Stewart

BIRMINGHAM Ala. (Reuters) - The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet, visited one of America’s sacred sanctuaries on Saturday, touring the church where four African-American girls were killed in a 1963 bombing that galvanized the civil rights movement.

As more than 300 protesters and supporters chanted and beat drums outside, the Dalai Lama held hands with Birmingham Mayor William Bell inside the 16th Street Baptist Church and said he was overjoyed to stand at the site where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders in the 1960s launched rallies for freedom for African-Americans.

“Human rights starts from within," the Dalai Lama said. "It does not come from skies. It does grow from earth."

He said: ”Martin Luther King was important to the acceptance of civil rights. Now the American people, majority are white, accept the reality.”

The Dalai Lama talked about income inequality as a threat to peace.

"Because of the economic situation, there is frustration,” he said. "Frustration brings anger. Then anger brings violence.

“There are no billionaires in Tibet. There is no gap.“

The 79-year-old Tenzin Gyatso, enthroned in 1950 as the 14th Dalai Lama, responded to questions about his future and said Buddhism would continue without a Dalai Lama.   Continued...

The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet, talks with Birmingham mayor William Bell during an interview at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama October 25, 2014.  REUTERS/Sherrel Wheeler Stewart