First day of the Vancouver Peace Summit full of laughter

The first day of the Vancouver Peace Summit was a day of both serious discussion and playful banter. One moment Jody Williams was asking the audience to get out of their seat and take action, while the next moment His Holiness the Dalai Lama was overwhelming the crowd with laughter when he comically pleaded ignorance to a question posed by moderator Mary Robinson. It was a day to remember.

The morning session, World Peace through Personal Peace, opened with the presentation of the inaugural Fetzer Prize for Love and Forgiveness. It was awarded to the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu for their work in bringing love, compassion and forgiveness to people around the world. Rev Mpho Tutu, Archbishop Tutu’s daughter, accepted the award on her father’s behalf, while he spoke to the audience via video.

The panel discussion was led by Sir Ken Robinson, who on many occasions got quite a laugh from the crowd. One of the highlights was his response to Eckhart Tolle’s quip, “The true test of compassion is when you meet a Republican.” Robinson replied, “Now, just which Republican are you referring to?”

Tolle was joined on the panel by His Holiness, Mpho Tutu, Matthieu Ricard, and Pierre Omidyar. Ricard, a scientist turned Buddhist monk, is a close friend of the Dalai Lama and was once dubbed the “happiest man in the world”. Omidyar is the founder of the Internet auction site eBay.

After the morning session, the speakers broke for lunch, although His Holiness left room for some tea and cookies, which he enjoyed amongst a crowd of enthused reporters.

The afternoon session, Nobel Laureates in Dialogue: Connecting for Peace, began with Karen Armstrong presenting her TED Prize Charter for Compassion. She proposed a “12-step program for peace”. 

Armstrong’s Charter for Compassion underlined the theme of the panel discussion, which was moderated by former Irish president Mary Robinson and included His Holiness, Rev Mpho Tutu, Mairead Maguire, Betty Williams, and Jody Williams, the latter three each Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.

The discussion revolved around the idea that compassion takes a lot of hard work. His Holiness said, “Many people think that compassion is passive. Compassion is action.”

Rev Mpho Tutu had similar thoughts on the idea of love. She said, “Love is not what we feel. It’s what we do. It’s what we do that matters infinitely.”

Tutu suggested that her upbringing had much to do with her view on peace-building. “I know peace is possible,” she said. “I’ve seen my parents.”

One of the highlights of Nobel Laureates in Dialogue, was when Mary Robinson asked His Holiness a question to which He pondered and then replied, “I don’t know.”

Robinson cried out, “You’re not allowed to say ‘I don’t know’.” It was just another one of the lighter moments of the Vancouver Peace Summit.

The two dialogues which were also streamed live online can be viewed in the CTV archives.

On September 29, there will be two sessions, Educating the Heart and Women and Peace-building, both which will be streamed live on CTV.


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