By Robin Gomes
The 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi is being celebrated with events and programmes on Wednesday, 2 October, not only in India but also by governments, organizations and people across the world. It is proof that the message and values of the man, regarded by many as the father of the Indian nation, are greatly cherished and valued even today, more than 70 years after his death.
Born on October 2, 1869, at Porbandar in Gujarat, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the lawyer-turned-activist successfully led India’s freedom movement against British rule, adopting non-violent resistance. Gandhi, who was given the title “Mahatma” (“Great Soul”) by Indian Noble Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, was assassinated on January 30, 1948 in Delhi, at the age of 78.
Gandhi has been the inspiration for civil rights and social change across the world. Among the greats of our times who adopted his philosophy of non-violence and non-cooperative methods are US civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr., and former South African President, Nelson Mandela.
The appeal of Gandhi is so great that the United Nations General Assembly on June 15, 2007, established the International Day of Non-Violence on Gandhi’s birthday on October 2. With this, the UN reaffirmed "the universal relevance of the principle of non-violence" and the desire "to secure a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and non-violence".
On Tuesday, the eve of Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue organized a day-long inter-faith event in the Vatican on Gandhi on the theme: “Fraternal Love and Non-violence for Global peace and harmony.”
Among the several speakers was the Ambassador of India to the Holy See, Mr. Sibi George. He spoke to Vatican News explaining that the message and values of Gandhi are very relevant even today.
He highlighted the fact that the establishment of the International Day of Non-Violence by the United Nations General Assembly on Gandhi’s birthday, October 2, by a unanimous vote in 2007, speaks volumes about the relevance of “his teachings and his principles”.
The Indian ambassador also said that principles of Gandhi and what he stood for are much in tune with the teachings of the popes, including Pope Francis, especially against the use of violence and the need for peace and harmony in the world.
In this regard, he picked out a message of Mahatma Gandhi, which he and many others read about in school text books and grew up with as children. It is called Gandhi’s “talisman” to the world. The talisman says that whatever be a person’s status or position in life, when he or she comes across doubts making decisions, he or she should think about whether that decision will benefit the poorest and the weakest person he or she has come across in life. If the decision benefits the poor person, then one should take that direction.
The Indian ambassador said that this is the message of the ancient Sanskrit Hindu phrase, “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, which means “the world is one family”. “Every individual, irrespective of his status in society, irrespective of the position he holds, everybody is important,” George said. “And any decision we take, should have a positive impact on the people.”