Speaking at a conference in Sweden where he praised the Nordic country for being "a peaceful, generally prosperous country" with a comparatively small gap between rich and poor, the exiled Tibetan leader of the Buddhist faith said that while European countries are "morally responsible" for assisting "a refugee really facing danger against their life," he mitigated that that by saying refugees should be repatriated to begin rebuilding their own homelands.
The Dalai Lama is an iconic leader often compared in character and popularity to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. His timely proclamation was especially potent because it took place three days after the far-right populist Sweden Democrats party gained a record share of the popular vote, known for its opposition to mass-migration. The conference took place in Malmo, Sweden, which has famously struggled from a spike in sexual assault and violent crime correlating with the increase in refugees from Syria and other middle-eastern countries, especially since 2014 over 100,000 asylum seekers settled in the area. Nearly half of the population there is of foreign-born background, with Iraqis making the single largest group.
In contrast the scandal-embattled Pope Francis of the Catholic Church has a "Don't Close your Doors" refugee initiative happening (in a case of historical irony) on the 445th anniversary of a Papal army's successful defense against an invading Islamic army.
"Receive them, help them, educate them... but ultimately they should develop their own country,"
"I think Europe belongs to the Europeans," he continued, adding "[refugees] should rebuild their own country"
These comments echo his earlier words in 2016 regarding Germany's open border policy, when he said "Europe, for example Germany, cannot become an Arab country." he added "Germany is Germany, There are so many that in practice it becomes difficult," he mentioned, according to the Independent.
"From a moral point of view, too, I think that the refugees should only be admitted temporarily," he continued.
Like today, he mitigated these comments by saying that compassion for those fleeing violent conflict is morally good, but said the goal of aid should now alter course by returning them to their now relatively stabilized homelands.
"When we look into the face of every single refugee, especially the children and women, we can feel their suffering," he said. "The goal should be that they return and help rebuild their countries."
The Dalai Lama has been exiled from his homeland since 1959, when he and thousands of followers were driven out of Tibet by a Communist Chinese invasion.