In Vaclav Havel the Dalai Lama lost a friend

The world has lost a peacemaker. The Dalai Lama Center has lost a supporter. The Dalai Lama has lost a great friend.

On December 18, at the age of 75, Vaclav Havel passed away. The last president of Czechoslovakia and first president of the Czech Republic, Havel was the playwright-cum-politician who led the Velvet Revolution that ended Communist rule in his eastern European nation.

In addition to his work that earned him a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize and his support of the Dalai Lama Center as one of our international advisors, Havel was also a very close friend of the Dalai Lama.

Just a week before his passing, Havel met with His Holiness in Prague. The Dalai Lama glowingly described his friend.

"Our friendship is based on us being human beings," he said. "It's not based on power."

Upon hearing news of Havel's death, the Dalai Lama said in a letter from his office that "the world has lost a great statesman whose steadfast and unflinching determination played a key role in bringing freedom and democracy to the then Czechoslovakia. He was an unassuming and a courageous leader."

Havel was scheduled to come to Vancouver at the invitation of the Dalai Lama Center in 2006. Unfortunately, because of ill health, he had to cancel.

Dalai Lama Center founder Victor Chan, who has had several opportunities in the last decade to watch Havel and the Dalai Lama interact, believes the two men are cut from the same cloth.

"The chemistry between His Holiness and Havel is singular, rather like that between His Holiness and Archbishop Desmond Tutu," says Chan.

"The two are on the same page in terms of their highly nuanced world view, human rights, dignity of the person, the relative irrelevance of artificial national boundaries. Both are unafraid to speak truth to power."

In Prague in 2000, Chan also had a chance to speak with Havel about the Dalai Lama. Havel had this to say to Chan:

“The Dalai Lama’s first visit [to the Czech Republic] was, to my mind, a very important event for many people and for the country. This was because the Dalai Lama radiated such positive energy about him. Many people told me afterwards that, it seemed to them, the Dalai Lama had, for some time, brought a light into our environment.”

Havel has taken that light and shone it on countless others in his own way. He will be greatly missed.

To learn more about the work and history of Vaclav Havel, please visit his website.

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