The Dalai Lama bid farewell to Oslo on Friday after three days of being met with cheering crowds, packed receptions, rapt audiences and lots of laughter. Several of Norway’s political party leaders defied the government to welcome the exiled leader of Tibet to the Norwegian Parliament, for a meeting that left one veteran claiming it was the greatest experience of his political life.
The Parliament (Stortinget) was the first stop on another busy day with a full program for the 78-year-old Dalai Lama. The leaders of the Christian Democrats, Liberals and Socialist Left parties were standing on the steps waiting for him, while crowds cheered on the streets.
Stortinget’s President Olemic Thommessen was among members of the ruling Conservative Party who refused to meet the Dalai Lama, for fear of offending China, and also had prevented the Parliament’s Tibet Committee from using the building’s formal reception room. Fears the elderly religious leader would be taken in via a side entrance were unfounded, though, as he received a warm and more dignified welcome at the same door used by Norway’s monarch.
Representatives for all of Norway’s political parties were present, if not the leaders of the government parties. The Dalai Lama sat between Kjetil Kjenseth of the Liberal Party (Venstre), who also leads the Parlament’s Tibet Committee, and Knut Arild Hareide, leader of the Christian Democrats, who later said the Dalai Lama grabbed his hand and kept holding it through the duration of the hour-long session. “It was fantastic to meet Dalai Lama, ” an overjoyed Hareide told Norwegian Broadcsting (NRK). “What a great man.”
Hareide asked him how he can manage to keep smiling all the time, when his message and his unwavering struggle for the liberation of Tibet is so serious. In response came simply more laughter and then the Dalai Lama rested his head on Hareide’s shoulder, before saying his smile was the result of an inner peace and calm, and a secret weapon when themes are difficult. Hareide seemed utterly charmed.
Kjenseth has said noted that the Tibetan population in Tibet, which has been under Chinese occupation for more than six decades, continues to become a minority in its own land because Chinese citizens receive subsidies and incentives to move to Tibet, “while the Tibetans are oppressed and discriminated against.” The Dalai Lama said he, on the other hand, was “a great admirer of democracy,” and said the Members of Parliament who greeted him on Friday were the ones who “represent the people.”
After the morning meeting at Parliament the Dalai Lama also visited the Nobel Peace Center where he was given a preview of a new exhibit due to open next week that explores how social media can change societies and challenge authorities. He also had a brief meeting with Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang, a member of the Conservatives who initially followed the line of his party leader, Prime Minister Erna Solberg, in refusing to meet the Dalai Lama but later changed his mind.
On Thursday the exiled Tibetan leader who lives in India also met the president of the Sami Parliament, Aili Keskitalos. She thanked him for contributing to increased recognition of the Sami people after he visited the Sami Paliament in Karasjok on a previous trip to Norway.
The Dalai Lama repeated claimed it was “no problem” that Solberg and other members of her government wouldn’t meet him. He realizes they’re under pressure from the Chinese and insists he mostly wants to “just meet people, and old friends” when he goes traveling. “People are more important than governments,” he said.