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Last Updated: Friday, 2 June 2006, 12:28 GMT 13:28 UK
Dalai Lama honours Tintin and Tutu
Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu
The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu are old friends

Comic strip adventure hero Tintin and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have been honoured by the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

At a ceremony in Brussels, he presented a Tibetan butter lamp to the Herge Foundation representing Tintin books.

The book Tintin in Tibet was published in the same year that the Dalai Lama fled the Himalayan kingdom.

He also presented a lamp and silk scarf to fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Archbishop Tutu of South Africa.

Holy men

They came in out of the Brussels rain - two men in their seventies, old friends - one in a black suit with a silver cross, the other in the red robes of a Tibetan monk.

Archbishop Tutu helped end apartheid in South Africa. The Dalai Lama is still campaigning against China's military occupation of Tibet.

We used to say to the apartheid government... Come: join the winning side. His Holiness and the Tibetan people are on the winning side
Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The awards ceremony took place under tight security, at a 19th-Century concert hall in central Brussels.

The Dalai Lama draped a silk scarf around the archbishop's neck and presented him with a Tibetan butter lamp: the Light of Truth Award from the International Campaign for Tibet.

In his speech, Archbishop Tutu paid tribute to his friend.

"I give great thanks to God that he has created a Dalai Lama," he said. "Do you really think, as some have argued, that God will be saying: 'You know, that guy, the Dalai Lama, is not bad. What a pity he's not a Christian'?"

A preacher with the timing of a stand-up comic, the archbishop continued: "I don't think that is the case - because, you see, God is not a Christian."

Tintin rescued

The Dalai Lama, said Archbishop Tutu, "has a childlike, boyish, impish, mischievousness. And I have to try and make him behave properly, like a holy man!"

Fanny Rodwell (right)
We never thought that this story of friendship would have a resonance more than 40 years later
Fanny Rodwell
Herge Foundation

The Dalai Lama rocked with laughter on his chair and wrapped his red robe more closely over his shoulder.

There was also an award for the Herge Foundation, established in memory of the author of the Tintin cartoon adventure books. Tintin in Tibet is one of the most popular in the series.

It is not a political book: instead it tells the story of Tintin's friendship with a Chinese boy, Chang, whose plane crashes in the Himalayas. When Tintin goes to rescue him, he encounters Tibetan monks and the mythical yeti - the Abominable Snowman.

The award was accepted by Herge's widow, Fanny Rodwell. Her voice trembled slightly as she spoke.

"We never thought that this story of friendship would have a resonance more than 40 years later," she said.

Another shaven-headed monk knelt by the Dalai Lama's chair, whispering a translation of Mme Rodwell's speech, which was in French.

When the book was published in Chinese, it was Tintin who needed rescuing. The Chinese authorities had renamed it Tintin in China's Tibet.


When Herge and his publishers protested, the Chinese backed down. The book is now sold in China under its original name.

Some of the Tintin adventures are 77 years old

The Dalai Lama said Tibetan Buddhism was a heritage "not just for Tibetans: it can do good for billions of people in our modern world".

"The Tibetan state is located between two of the world's great powers, India and China. Good relations between these powers are crucial for world peace. Tibet has an important role to play," he said.

And he urged his supporters not to regard the Chinese as their enemies.

Archbishop Tutu drew an explicit comparison between the anti-apartheid movement and the campaign for Tibetan autonomy from China.

"We used to say to the apartheid government: you may have the guns, you may have all this power, but you have already lost. Come: join the winning side. His Holiness and the Tibetan people are on the winning side," he said.

Burma hopes

Outside, there were free copies of Tintin in Tibet available, but only in Esperanto. One of the monks scurried past, clutching his copy under one arm.

Archbishop Tutu dedicated his award to his fellow Nobel peace laureate, the Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest from the military government.

"Can you beat it?" Archbishop Tutu asked incredulously. "The military junta are armed to the teeth and they are scared of a little woman. They run away from Rangoon and hide somewhere in the forest, because she is good, and they are scared."

But he looked forward to the day when he and the Dalai Lama would be able to attend her inauguration as Burma's president.

"Freedom," he concluded, "is unstoppable."


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