Dalai Lama sparks debate over 'Europe belongs to Europeans' comment

The Dalai Lama says Europe belongs to Europeans, sparking debate on social media, with some labelling the spiritual leader a "bigot". 

Speaking at a conference in Sweden on Wednesday, the Tibetan spiritual leader made the comments in the country's third-largest city, Malmo, which is home to a large immigrant population. 

The 14th Dalai Lama - who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 - said Europe was "morally responsible" for helping "a refugee really facing danger against their life," Business Times reports

He told European countries to "receive them, help them, educate them… but ultimately they should develop their own country."

"I think Europe belongs to the Europeans," he said.

The 83-year-old Tibetan had to flee his own country to live in India to live in refuge over fear for his life after China deployed troops into Tibet in an attempt to defuse an apparent uprising. 

In 2016, China wrote to diplomats and United Nations officials urging them not to attend a Geneva event where the Dalai Lama was due to speak, reasserting that it opposes his appearance at all venues due to his "separatist activities".  

The Dalai Lama's declaration that "Europe belongs to Europeans" received swift backlash on social media. He is revered by millions of Buddhists around the world as a visionary, but some have now called him a "bigot" and a "hypocrite". 

"Where were you when these countries bombarded these Muslim countries and destroyed everything," said Twitter user Younis A Bhat, who went on to call the Dalai Lama a "hypocrite" and "bootlicker". 

Another called the Dalai Lama a "bigot of the first order", and suggested the 83-year-old lead by example and return to Tibet if it's such an easy thing to do, to which someone replied, "He has to set an example for himself."

But some stood up for the spiritual leader's comments, criticising others for coming to the conclusion that what Dalai Lama said was offensive, saying "maybe it's time to reassess our meaning of 'far right'." 

The Dalai Lama's comments in Sweden came just days after the country's far-right leaning populist party, the Sweden Democrats, made gains in the general election held on Sunday. The country's centre-left coalition came out on top.