Spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Saturday admitted that he has known of sexual abuse by Buddhist leaders since the 1990s, AFP reported. He was responding to a petition by people who have allegedly allegedly been sexually abused by Buddhist teachers.

The Dalai Lama, who is currently touring Europe, met them in the Netherlands on Friday. “We found refuge in Buddhism with an open mind and heart, until we were raped in its name,” the petitioners said.

In his response to Dutch television channel NOS, the Dalai Lama said: “I already did know these things, nothing new.” He added that “someone mentioned about a problem of sexual allegations” at a conference for western Buddhist teachers in Dharamsala 25 years ago. People who commit sexual abuse don’t care about the Buddha’s teaching, he claimed. “So now that everything has been made public, people may concern (sic) about their shame.”

The spiritual leader said several Tibetan leaders are expected to meet in Dharamsala in November. “At that time they should talk about it,” he added. “I think the religious leaders should pay more attention.”

Referring to the alleged abuse, the spiritual leader’s representative in Europe, Tseten Samdup Chhoekyapa, said the Dalai Lama “has consistently denounced such irresponsible and unethical behaviour”.

The 83-year-old fled to India in 1959 after an unsuccessful uprising against Chinese rule and then set up a government-in-exile in Dharamsala.