NEWARK, N.J. — The Dalai Lama and other international activists will seek to spread their message of peace during a three-day summit this spring aimed at changing the culture of violence that plagues New Jersey's largest city.
The Tibetan spiritual leader is scheduled to give the keynote address at the Newark Peace Education Summit, scheduled for May 13-15. Iranian Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi and spiritual leader Deepak Chopra also are scheduled to participate.
"Many people might think Newark is tough terrain to be talking about peace. But they are wrong," Mayor Cory Booker said at a news conference Wednesday at the Newark Museum. "I have seen a flowering over the last four years of people working stridently in the cause for peace, and understanding that peace is not about prison or police or jails, that it must be approached from a broader perspective."
The event came together through the efforts of New York-based Tibet House U.S. co-founder Robert Thurman and billboard company owner Drew Katz, a philanthropist who has made significant contributions to Newark's anti-crime efforts since the 2007 schoolyard killings of three friends.
Newark continues to struggle under the weight of a violent crime rate that fell during Booker's first term but has begun to rebound in the last 18 months. In the worst example, carjackings rose 70 percent in the city from 2009 to 2010.
Katz said he was intrigued by Thurman's success in staging a similar conference in San Francisco in 1997. Thurman, a professor of Tibetan studies at Columbia University and the father of actress Uma Thurman, said the Dalai Lama was eager to return to Newark.
He has visited three times previously, the last time in 1990 to consecrate a Tibetan Buddhist altar that is the centerpiece of the museum's Tibetan art exhibits, according to museum director Mary Sue Sweeney Price.
Thurman drew chuckles when he said that despite his decades-long friendship with the Dalai Lama and his embrace of Buddhism, he still loses his temper but is improving "by doing a little yoga, by learning, by trying to listen to my wife, by listening to my children."
"It's a constant effort, a re-education of one's self," Thurman said. "One conference won't do that, but the presence of the Dalai Lama and others can set an example that violence is not the way, that there's always some way of dialogue without coming to blows and bloodshed."
The main summit sessions are titled "Peace Within," ''Peace at Home," ''Peace in the Schools and Community," ''Peace in the World" and "Peace with the Planet."
Katz said the summit will bring together local community leaders as well as gang prevention experts from the around the country. An emphasis will be on educating teens in seeking peaceful ways to resolve conflicts.
"We're going to talk about conflict resolution and hopefully show, for those who do choose violence over peace, the incredible impact of someone like His Holiness the Dalai Lama, whose people have been oppressed more than anybody, and how a nonviolent and peaceful response is really the right way to go," he said.
Newark Peace Education Summit: www.newarkpeace.org