Many of us have difficulty forgiving others sometimes. But for Richard Moore, who at age ten, was shot and blinded by a soldier’s rubber bullet during the troubles in Northern Ireland, forgiveness has brought true inner peace
That was May 1972, almost 40 years ago and since then, Northern Ireland has transformed itself for the better, while Richard has dedicated his life to helping children in conflict areas.
On Thursday 14 April 2011, over 3,000 people attended an event at the University of Limerick to hear Richard Moore and the His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama speak inspirationally on the subject of forgiveness.
The event served as a fundraiser for Richard’s charity, Children in Crossfire, which works with children in 14 countries across Africa, Asia and South America. “We focus on what we can do, not what we can’t do, and I think that’s been the story of my life,” says Richard.
“I have never felt any anger or bitterness about what happened,” Richard says of losing his sight. “If you think about that anger and bitterness, it wouldn’t have affected anybody, only me.” The support was also there for him: “There are many things in my life that helped me deal with losing my sight in such a traumatic way; I came from such a good family, a good community and despite the poverty and the difficulties that existed then, I still had choices and opportunities.”
As he grew older Richard became aware that there are young people who, despite having their sight, do not have the same support, and this led him to found Children In Crossfire in 1996. Naturally, its early work assisted the healing process in Northern Ireland.
Richard first met the Dalai Lama in 2000 when the Tibetan leader visited Derry as part of the peacemaking process. They developed a strong friendship and the Dalai Lama became patron of the charity. For Richard, the Dalai Lama’s message of forgiveness and compassion expresses his own feelings. As for the Dalai Lama, he calls Richard his hero, saying that all he himself does is preach about compassion and wisdom, whereas Richard has made the transformation.
In 2005, furthering the process of forgiveness, Richard contacted the man who, as a soldier, had shot him. The two became good friends and at the event in Limerick, which was titled The Power of Forgiveness, Richard Moore, the Dalai Lama and the ex-soldier held hands as testimony to that power.
The revered Tibetan then addressed the audience, emphasising the promotion of human values and religious harmony. “Mentally, emotionally, physically, we are the same, with a secondary level of different faith, different colour, different nationality,” he said, adding that many problems are due to too much importance being placed on these secondary levels, forgetting that fundamentally, “we are the same: human beings.”
He continued: “I always consider I am just one of nearly seven billion human beings. My own happier future entirely depends on the rest of humanity.” He added that modern economies and ecological problems have no national or religious boundaries, “so the time has come to think for the entire humanity.”
The Dalai Lama encouraged religious people to be open minded toward other traditions while being faithful to their own. Throughout, he advocated the practice of compassion as a means to create positive effects, not just for one’s self, but also for others.
The event closed with a children’s choir singing Forgiveness is a Gift, a song specially co-written by young Irish children from three schools. The Irish Chamber Orchestra accompanied and the audience joined in the emotional chorus: “If you will take it in, I will let it go. Forgiveness is a gift.”