The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of six million Tibetans, has been named recipient of the 2009 International Freedom Award.  

Given by the (U.S.) National Civil Rights Museum, the Dalai Lama is cited for his "steadfast commitment to protecting and defending the rights of the oppressed people of Tibet and elsewhere in the world."

Announcing the award, the National Civil Rights Movement board chair Benjamin L Hooks described the Dalai Lama as "a living example of Martin Luther King and (Mahatma) Ghandi's non-violence in the face of political oppression and suffering.

"We've given this award since 1991 to people who have made a total commitment to making sure that the world is a better place," Museum spokeswoman Gwen Harmon told VOA.  "For us, the Dalai Lama speaks to that mission totally."

The Dalai Lama will receive the award in a ceremony on  Sept. 23 at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn.

The National Civil Rights Museum chronicles the struggle for equality in the United States. It was built adjacent to the Lorraine Motel, where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated on April 4, 1968.