The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, has chosen the Dalai Lama as the 2009 recipient of its International Freedom Award.
A statement from the museum said the award is being given to the Dalai Lama for his steadfast commitment to protecting and defending the rights of the oppressed people of Tibet and elsewhere in the world.
Museum Board Chairman Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks said, "As a living example of Dr. Martin Luther King and Gandhi’s non-violence in the face of political oppression and suffering, the Dalai Lama demonstrates life-long peaceful struggle against brutality and injustice. As the Tibetan people mark their 50th year in exile, the Dalai Lama’s struggle serves as an inspiration for social justice movements everywhere."
The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of of six million Tibetans. He was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama when he was two years old and, in 1940, he was formally enthroned as the Dalai Lama. Ten years later, China invaded Tibet. Chinese control intensified and oppression continued, leading to the failed popular Tibetan uprising of 1959. The Dalai Lama fled and has since lived in exile in Dharamsala, India.
The award will be presented in a ceremony September 23rd in Memphis.
The National Civil Rights Museum is located in the Lorraine Motel where American civil rights leader Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.
Some information for this report was provided by NCRM and AP.