Nov 19, 2012 1:06 PM by AP
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The Dalai Lama and an entourage of Tibetan monks are heading to New Orleans in May 2013 in a rally of support for communities still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
The 77-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner is expected to make at least two public speeches while he's in the city on May 16-18.
Monks will create an elaborate sand mandala - a circular symbolic design - at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and perform multiphonic chanting, known as zokkay.
The visit of the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader will be sponsored by Tulane University's School of Social Work. Additional details of the visit were expected to be released at a news conference on Monday in New Orleans.
For more than a decade, Ronald Marks, dean of Tulane's School of Social Work, has been conducting a graduate social work class in north India. Students work with the Tibetan refugee population and with the Louisiana Himalaya Association, a local social service organization that provides services to Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala and in surrounding villages throughout north India.
"I firmly believe that whereas we have much to offer the Tibetan exile community, we also have much to learn from it," Marks said.
The public will be able to hear the Dalai Lama speak at two events with the purchase of a ticket: He is scheduled to speak at the Morial Convention Center on Friday, May 17, and on Saturday, May 18, at the University of New Orleans Lakefront Arena. Revenue generated from ticket sales will be used to underwrite the events, and any remaining funds will be donated to a nonprofit organization.
The Dalai Lama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his nonviolent struggle in protest of Chinese rule of Tibet, has long been a critic of the Iraq War. In Iraq, violence caused by insurgents remains a problem following the U.S. withdrawal of troops in December. He will be bringing his message of nonviolence to New Orleans, a city plagued by high murder rates.
Last month the Dalai Lama talked about violence, ethics, education, values, compassion and peace in U.S. college communities in the New England area about two weeks before the Atlantic Coast was devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
He spoke at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Conn., where he was introduced by actor Richard Gere. He also visited Syracuse University in New York; the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., and Middlebury College in Vermont.
He spent three days in Massachusetts, the site of The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values, a nonprofit think tank at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. He also attended a concert in Boston that featured a performance by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter James Taylor.
In New Orleans, the monks' sand mandala will be displayed at the Morial Convention Center beginning May 14. During a May 17 ceremony, monks will lead a procession to the Mississippi River and disperse the sand into the river.
New Orleans is melting pot of cultures and religions, though its roots are in Roman Catholicism brought by its French founders and later Spanish rulers. Pope John Paul II visited the city in 1987, speaking to crowds of tens of thousands and saying Mass at the Superdome.
Religious groups have played a significant part in the rebuilding of the New Orleans area and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, mostly through volunteers from church-sponsored organizations of a wide variety of denominations who flocked to the region after Katrina struck on Aug. 29, 2005. The storm killed an estimated 1,800 people in Louisiana and Mississippi and unleashed a flood that swamped 80 percent of New Orleans.