Indian Catholics mark centenary of Gandhian non-violence

While the US remembers the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Indian Archbishop Oswald Gracias says the world can learn from Mahatma Gandhi as Indian Catholics celebrate the centenary day of Gandhi's 11 September 1906 launch of non-violent resistance against British rule in India.

AsiaNews reports that India yesterday celebrated Satyagraha, the principle of non-violence launched a century ago by Gandhi (1869-1948), that is today invoked and taken up by the Church as a call to action for the international community to overcome divisions caused by wars and terrorism.

The roots of Satyagraha are found in Gandhi's 1893 trip to South Africa where he saw first hand the terrible reality of thousands of Indian immigrants living under racial segregation, according to the report.

The indignation he felt over the racial discrimination inflicted on his fellow Indians (and himself) by the British authorities led him to political action.

Gandhi, a lawyer later to be known as "The Mahatma" (Great Soul), became involved in the fight for his compatriots' rights.

Back in India on 11 September 1906, he launched a campaign based on a non-violent resistance - Satyagraha - a total refusal to collaborate with the British authorities and the use of mass pressure.

Thanks to Gandhi, peaceful rebellion and marches become the hallmark of the struggle for social and political change, AsiaNews reports.

Archbishop Oswald Gracias, chairman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, told AsiaNews that Gandhi's message of non-violence is important today more than ever, for India and the world.

"He had an inner strength and this, along with other virtues, helped him reach his goals," the prelate said. "He had a huge following because people of every faith, caste and creed witnessed his spiritual strength, not to mention his political action."

"In today's India some segments of society have come under the sway of globalisation and are leading the country away from the basic principles of peace, harmony and mutual co-existence for which Gandhi fought hard and upon which our beloved nation was founded."

Jesuit Fr Cedric Prakash, director of the Prashant Human Rights Centre, told AsiaNews that "Satyagraha, in the world we live in, is without a doubt the best way to achieve peace."

"When Gandhi launched his campaign for truth in South Africa exactly a century ago, he didn't clearly foresee what this powerful weapon could bring about. It was successful in achieving Indian independence," he said.

Noting the significance of the date also for Americans and condemning terrorism, the Jesuit priest said that the US could learn from the non-violence of Gandhi.

"Terrorism in any form must always be condemned. Today is another anniversary, that of the massacre in America by religious fundamentalists. People around the world must condemn such actions without any appeal."

"We are conscious that the world could become a different place if the world's superpowers met the legitimate rights and aspirations of peoples and nations, and if we were serious about disarmament and dismantling the industry that encourages war and violence," he added.

"Satyagraha and non-violence are the only path to correctly deal with fundamental problems that today cause violence," he said.

Celebrating one hundred years of non-violence, only weapon against terrorism (Asia News, 11/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Mahatma Gandhi (Wikipedia)
Satyagraha (Wikipedia)
Ahimsa (non-violence) (Wikipedia)

Irish jury acquits O'Reilly (CathNews, 26/7/06)

12 Sep 2006