Special security concerns for the Dalai Lama’s 1st visit to Louisville since ‘94


by Chelsea Rabideau


Posted on May 17, 2013 at 11:45 PM

Updated Saturday, May 18 at 12:00 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – Tickets are still available for the Dalai Lama’s visit to Louisville this Sunday, May 19. He’s such a draw that he’ll be speaking at the KFC YUM! Center and will arrive in Louisville on Saturday. It’s his first visit to this city in 19 years.

But, right now, the 77-year-old recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize is in New Orleans for his first ever visit there. He told the sold out audience that the shooting five days ago at a Mother’s Day parade in New Orleans was a sad event and he expressed his, “genuine social concern,” to the wounded and their families.

In Louisville, security is being tightened and beefed up. Metro police are keeping pretty tight lipped about security measures for the visit. They’ll only say it will involve federal, state, and local agencies. They’re all necessary because of the troubled history in the Dalai Lama’s own country.

Many of us in the United States see the Dalai Lama as a symbol of peace and compassion. In Louisville, the Drepung Gamong Institute is a reflection of that. But, His Holiness’ past is riddled with tragedy. It’s at the institute we spoke with the Dalai Lama’s nephew Kunga Norbu, who talked of his own father fleeing Tibet.

“They tried to brainwash my father,” Norbu explained. “They wanted my father to kill his brother, to basically assassinate His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.”

Norbu’s father became the first Tibetan to settle in America after he was offered a job at Indiana University in the 1960s. “Back in the 1960s, nobody knows about Tibet, nobody knows about the Dalai Lama,” Norbu said.

The Norbu’s began to raise American awareness of the struggles in Tibet and the Dalai Lama’s banishment from the country. John Borders serves on the steering committee for Engaging Compassion, one of the groups responsible for bringing the Dalai Lama to Louisville. He said, “Having to flee his own country, having to never have the opportunity to go back to his country where his people love him and what him to be, is really a sadness that most of us can’t understand.”

Because of the turmoil, it is necessary to involve the state department in security planning wherever the Dalai Lama visits. They’ve been coming to Louisville for months, securing the locations His Holiness will be.

“He’s considered to be a danger by the Chinese government,” Borders explained, “Hard to believe that a man of such compassion would be considered a danger, but he is.”

Here in the U.S., pictures of the Dalai Lama can be displayed freely. In his own country, where the Chinese population is nearly outnumbering the native Tibetans, it is a crime; so while the Dalai Lama spreads a message of interfaith compassion, his visit will also serve to remind people of the turmoil in Tibet.

The Dalai Lama’s first public talk will be Sunday at 12:30 at the KFC YUM! Center. He’ll give two public teachings on Monday, those are set for 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. And, Monday night, the Tibetan Freedom Concert starts at 8 p.m. at the Brown Theatre.

The last time the Dalai Lama was in Louisville was for a visit to the Cathedral of the Assumption in 1994.