Dalai Lama urges interfaith understanding

Islam is a religion of peace, and suicide bombers are “mischievous people.”

That was part of the message His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama brought to San Francisco at a gathering of religious leaders and more than 600 attendees at the Mark Hopkins Hotel on Saturday, April 15.

Dubbed “A Gathering of Hearts Illuminating Compassion,” the event was sponsored by several Islamic groups and charitable foundations. The stated goal was to “mitigate religious intolerance and promote understanding and compassion among Muslims and people of all faiths.”

Though more than 20 Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Jewish scholars and clerics shared the dais, center stage was reserved for the Dalai Lama, religious figure and Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Among the clergy was Rabbi Jack Bemporad, director of the Center for Interreligious Understanding. Bemporad spoke briefly, saying, “If you practice compassion, faith, graciousness and faithfulness, you find God.”

His remarks mirrored those of the Dalai Lama, who also said, “To some people, the Muslim tradition is more militant. That is totally wrong. Islam is like any other tradition, with the same message and practice: compassion.”

Though the Dalai Lama drew distinctions between his own Buddhist creed and that of Islam (for one thing, he does not believe in a Creator), he emphasized his respect for Islam and all faiths. “We need these other traditions,” he added.

He minimized the trend toward jihad among some segments of Islam, saying “In any religious community, a few mischievous people are always there. Due to certain factors, human emotions go out of control.”

At one point, while describing his understanding of Islamic principles, the Dalai Lama looked to Imam Mehdi Khorasani, the head of the Islamic Society of California, sitting next to him and said, “Correct me if I make a mistake.”

Khorasani quipped, “You never make a mistake.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.