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Mahatma Gandhi's 136th Birthday Celebration

Mahatma Gandhi's 136th Birthday Celebration: Lessons for Nepal


By Kamala Sarup

The 136th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on Sunday was celebrated in Washington DC. India's envoy to the U.S., the Honorable Ronen Sen, recalled the role played by Gandhi in inspiring freedom movement in countries under the yoke of colonialism. The celebration of Gandhi's life included citizens of a variety of countries, including America, who are studying his life's work.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in the town of Porbander in the state of what is now Gujarat on 2 October 1869. Throughout his life, Gandhi struggled to find freedom for his oppressed countrymen and to spread his heartfelt belief in nonviolent resistance to oppressed people everywhere.

Given the name Mahatma, meaning "Great Soul," he eventually spread his message across the globe. After 21 years in South Africa Gandhi returned to India to fight for Indian independence from Great Britain.

He spent numerous days in prison as his way of showing people that violence is not the answer. He inspired countless individuals, such as the Reverend Martin Luther King, and his indomitable spirit lives on even today.

Gandhi's message was one of peace and compassion: that one's actions profoundly affect the world in which one lives. In today's world fraught with tension and conflicts, the universal teachings of Gandhi of non-violence, love and fraternity have an enduring relevance. Humanity as a whole could benefit immensely by following the path he illuminated: peace, fellowship, tolerance and primacy of humane conduct.

What few today celebrate is Gandhi's great courage. By deliberately choosing the path of non-violence, quite revolutionary in his day, Gandhi knew that both he and his followers would surely encounter persecution, suffering and even death. Yet he never changed his beliefs, and indeed led from the front, showing his followers the ultimate way. Because of his unflinching courage and determination, Gandhi changed both India and the world.

Gandhi believed that the edifice of lasting peace could be erected only on the foundation of love, compassion, tolerance, coexistence and non-violence. Peace and non-violence are the only sane choices in an increasingly violent world.

To honor Gandhi's memory, on this occasion, we Nepalis must work for peace. We should join hands across the political divides in order to develop a truly nationwide consensus for peace. Violence, no matter the justification in today's conflicts, only creates more violence in the end. Breaking this cycle and discovering solutions that actually work is, perhaps, one way to truly honor the memory of Gandhi.

One way is to educate the media in the root causes of conflicts and their resultant violence. Superficial analyses by journalists to grab a quick headline or audience share cheapens the sacrifice of those who have devoted their lives to finding solutions and ending conflicts. Someone once said that all conflicts are ultimately about economic power: who has it, who wants it, and who ultimately gets it. There can be little doubt that poverty and the misery it creates spawn both conflict and violence. To actually solve conflicts, the issues of poverty and a society perceived as just by all should be taken into account.

Anyone who supports non-violence is a peace maker. However, we always will have to be careful to distinguish people, groups of people and states. Ascribing the causes of violence requires great care. without this, the words "violence" and "war" become mere pejoratives to sling at each other and solve nothing.

The ultimate losers in conflicts between powerful interests are the innocents caught in the middle. The slaughter of innocents is a sad truth in all of the world's conflicts and wars, no matter how well-meaning the initial combatants were. Gandhi clearly showed us all this eternal truth.

It is true, because powerful people all over the world are aggressive, acquisitive, and sometimes ignorant, wars will always occur. But perhaps the best we common people can do is to foster the conditions for increased communication, more integrated industries, additional trade and more education among the peoples of different countries so that they stand to lose economically by warring. In that way, wars may be reduced in number and severity.

Cheaper computers, cell phones and internet connections to make them available to more people and extend faster communications so that more people have a better understanding of other cultures and values that tend to reduce wars.

Manufacturing parts in one country, subassemblies in another country, and assembled products in still another country causes people to cooperate more to reduce the likelihood of war. Buying goods from other countries make people more interdependent and less inclined to war against each other.

More education promotes better technical skills, foreign languages, and a deeper understanding of other cultures which combine to reduce the chances of misunderstandings, violence and war.

Today, the fight to reduce violence must be extended from the legal level to the attitudinal level. It will succeed only by elaborate campaigns to change people's attitudes, a task for which people are admirably suited.

Journalists and writers can greatly help these campaigns by writing convincingly for the general public in newspapers, TV, radio and the WWW without hidden agendas, distorted facts, unproven conjectures, and faulty reasoning. Changing people's attitudes through the media is the way to ultimately win the war on violence.

*************

Kamala Sarup is an editor of http://peacejournalism.com/


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