Dalai Lama Praises Ban on Death Penalty

The Dalai Lama spoke in Chicago Sunday about bridging religious divides, but he did not touch on sensitive political issues related to China.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate spoke Sunday for two hours to more than 10,000 devotees and admirers on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Sitting on a stage in crimson-red robes, the Tibetan spiritual leader focused on the similarities among religions in stressing the values of compassion, justice and tolerance.

As he first came on stage, he was greeted by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. The Dalai Lama gave Quinn a traditional blessing by placing a white silk scarf around his neck. In response, Quinn tapped his hand on his heart.

A few minutes later, the Dalai Lama praised Quinn and Illinois legislators for abolishing the death penalty.

The 76-year-old leader says it was the right thing to do and that he wanted to congratulate Illinois.

The state law ending the death penalty took effect this month.

The spiritual leader's visit to Chicago came after China blasted President Barack Obama for meeting the Dalai Lama in Washington on Saturday.

China's Foreign Ministry described it as an act that has "grossly interfered in China's internal affairs" and damaged Chinese-American relations

Chinese troops occupied Tibet in 1949 and the Dalai Lama fled into exile a decade later.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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