Gandhi’s Birthday Celebrated as International Day of Non-Violence

By Indhrannie Pillay

International Day of Non-Violence was celebrated on 2 October 2007 with various activities such as candlelight vigils and peace walks around the world. The birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who helped lead India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world, was declared as International Day Non-Violence by the United Nations Assembly on 15 June 2007.

Indian Prime minster Dr. Manmohan Singh in his speech on the occasion of this celebration said “We in India have observed this day for decades as a day of prayer and thanksgiving. Every Indian has, year after year, thanked the Almighty on this day for bringing into this world such a noble soul as Mahatma Gandhi. But, today the heart of every Indian, of every citizen of the world who has been touched by the message of Mahatma Gandhi, is filled with joy and gratitude. We are grateful to the world community for declaring this auspicious day as the International Day of Non-Violence.”

Gandhi’s peaceful resistance to the unjust system of apartheid in South Africa and the struggle against British rule in India captured the world’s attention. His philosophy of peace, truth, non-violence, promoting tolerance and advancing human dignity is what made him a Mahatma amongst men.

“Mahatma Gandhi’s message was not just for India. Nor was it just for the times he lived in. Mahatma Gandhi’s message of love and peace, of non-violence and Satyagraha, of the equality of all peoples, of harmony between all religions, is a universal message. It is a message for all times, for all societies and for all peoples,” he added.Sheikh Saleem Banda of the World Asssembly of Muslim Youth said, “It is extremely important to remember and commemorate such a day, especially in South Africa after the advent of Apartheid. With the current situation of violence, unemployment and poverty, it is vital that we constantly preach Gandhi’s message of Truth, Peace and Non-Violence.”

On the 138th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth, is it enough to know him and what he stood for? Have we not exhausted the topic of Gandhi and his contribution to the world? Is it now not a time for us to carry fought Gandhi’s legacy and to live his message? If not now then when? After more senseless violence? After we lose our humanity in the quest for power and wealth?

“Gandhiji’s message is more important today than ever before since nations across the world continue to grapple with the threat of conflict, violence and terrorism. For as long as there is temptation to resort to violence in the human mind, the Mahatma’s message of non-violence will tug at our hearts,” Manmohan Singh said.  

Gandhi has left behind a mark on the world, a mark of honour, courage, determination, perseverance, truth and non-violence. What mark will you leave behind? There is a great need to address current trends of violence, abuse of power, economic injustices and so forth. Vasu Gounden, CEO of African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) said, “With all the armed conflicts in the world today, particularly with the attack the monks who were peacefully demonstrating (Myanmar, at the end of September 2007), the world is in dire need of Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy on Non-violence.”

In order to achieve world peace and promote true tolerance and non-violence at every level, every individual has to commit to the cause. “We need a complete reorientation of our values system that will take us away from competition, consumerism and class towards a common collective consciousness,” Gounden added.   

Do not make International Day of Non-Violence an event to celebrate every 2 October, make it your way of life everyday. To put it simply in the words of Gandhi “Be the change that you see in the world.”

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