the Dalai Lama “had a very close relationship with Desmond Tutu”

the Dalai Lama had a very close relationship with Desmond

The Dalai Lama had made it ” his spiritual elder brother “. Desmond Tutu, who died at the age of 90, shared a strong friendship with the spiritual leader of the Tibetans, to the point of inspiring a best-selling book and documentary. Upon his death, the Dalai Lama greeted “ a great man, who lived a meaningful life “. Tashi Phuntsok, representative of the Dalai Lama, in charge of the Tibet Office in Brussels, is our guest.

RFI : How did the Dalai Lama react to the news of Desmond Tutu’s death?

Tashi Phuntsok: His Holiness had a very close relationship with Archbishop Tutu for many decades. As soon as he heard the news of his passing, he immediately sent a message of condolence to his daughter, Mpho Tutu, in which His Holiness designated Tutu as his elder spiritual brother and close friend.

When the two men were together, they played and had fun like children. Of course, they are known for their humor, but the joy they emitted when they were together far exceeded that of their other meetings.

How do you explain their friendship?

Both shared a very global vision of humanity. They saw the world as one and indivisible, people as one and the same people, and did not see different beliefs as an obstacle in human relationships.

Second, having both endured hardship and repression, they shared a common determination to improve the situation of their people. In the case of the Archbishop, it was a question of combating apartheid; and for his Holiness the Dalai Lama, it is about bringing dignity to the people of Tibet who are under the occupation of China.

Facing China, Desmond Tutu always sided with the Dalai Lama. His anger is remembered in 2011 when the Tibetan spiritual leader was denied a visa to attend his birthday. What do you remember from this episode?

Arch As the South Africans called him, was appalled at the way the government refused to grant a visa to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He obviously spoke out against this decision. Conversely, His Holiness invited the Archbishop to India where they celebrated his birthday in grand style and in public in Dharamsala.

Should we remember that the Dalai Lama is not welcome in South Africa ?

In 1999, when I was in South Africa, I was organizing a visit from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and we had a confirmed meeting with President Thabo Mbeki. But a year before the visit, the meeting was simply canceled. Then the pressure from China became more evident and there were fewer and fewer official ties established. Since 2004, there have been no visits by His Holiness to South Africa despite many opportunities.

What memories do you have of Desmond Tutu?

His graces. I have seen it on numerous occasions. For example in 1998 when we were together on Robben Island for two days for a PeaceJam, a youth training mission. Whenever I had difficulty, he was the one I could turn to and I fondly remember his blessings and graces, which can only be fully appreciated.

To listen: Interview – South Africa: “With Desmond Tutu, there have been radical changes” in the Churches