The Dalai Lama and Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi met for the first time in London as the two Nobel Peace Prize winners visited Europe on separate programs, the office of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said Wednesday.
They spoke for about 30 minutes in a private meeting on Tuesday that coincided with the Burmese opposition figure and parliamentarian’s 67th birthday, according to a statement by the Dalai Lama’s office posted on his website.
The Dalai Lama, 76, praised Aung San Suu Kyi for her courage in working to bring political change to her country, it said.
“I have real admiration for your courage,” the Dalai Lama told Suu Kyi, who is now in the last days of her first trip to Europe after being freed in 2010 from almost two decades of house arrest under Burma’s former military rulers.
Comparing the popular Burmese political figure to her father, Aung San, who led Burma’s struggle for independence from Britain, the Dalai Lama expressed confidence that she, too, will continue to be “of great service to humanity.”
Further details on what subjects the two discussed in their meeting, described by the Dalai Lama's office as a "close conversation," were not immediately available.
The Dalai Lama is on a visit to Britain from June 15 to 23 “to spread his message of non-violence, dialogue and universal responsibility, particularly to young people,” his office said.
Aung San Suu Kyi is on an 18-day European tour in which she was feted by politicians and pop stars and cheered by crowds in Ireland, Switzerland, and Norway, where she finally received the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1991.
On Wednesday, Suu Kyi received an honorary degree from Oxford University, where she had studied in the 1980s before returning to Burma, first to care for an ailing mother and then staying to lead the political opposition to military rule in the country, which is also called Myanmar.
Speaking last week in Norway to accept the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to her in 1991, Suu Kyi described herself as “cautiously optimistic” about the process of political reform now under way under the nominally civilian government that took power in Burma in March last year.
“[This] is not because I do not have faith in the future, but because I do not want to encourage blind faith,” she said.
“Without faith in the future, without the conviction that democratic values and fundamental human rights are not only necessary but possible for our society, our movement could not have been sustained throughout the destroying years.”
Later, on Monday, Suu Kyi appeared at a concert in her honor in Dublin, Ireland, where U2 lead singer Bono presented her with rights group Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience award.
In an honor usually accorded only to visiting heads of state, Suu Kyi will address both houses of Britain’s parliament on Thursday, and will then travel to France at the invitation of that country’s new president, Francois Hollande.
Reported by Richard Finney.