Indian Catholics mark Gandhi non-violence centenary

Mohandas Gandhi personified simplicity, truth and purity, according to an Indian Catholic youth leader, as India marks the centenary of the non-violent movement founded by the Mahatma.

South African Gandhi disciple and anti-apartheid campaigner Archbishop Desmond Tutu asked when the world would learn to deal with conflict and war through forgiveness, negotiations, compromise and recognition of humanity.

Archbishop Tutu was among 300 foreign delegates from 88 countries and 1000 Indians at an Indian government sponsored centenary conference on the theme "Peace, nonviolence and empowerment, Gandhian philosophy in the 20th century", UCA News reports.

Gandhi began satyagraha - from the Sanskrit "satya", meaning truth, and "agraha", meaning endeavour - in South Africa.

He had gone there as a migrant lawyer in the late 19th century to support the local Indian community's struggle for human rights. This year marks the centenary of Gandhi's arrest by South African authorities for civil disobedience.

Gandhi returned to India in 1915 and applied nonviolent resistance in India's own struggle against British colonial rule, culminating in the country's independence in 1947.

From there, the concept of satyagraha gained global attention and was adopted by Martin Luther King Jr during the 1960s civil-rights movement in the United States.

Following the conference, Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam presented Archbishop Tutu the Gandhi Peace Prize, which the Indian government instituted in 1995 to honor people leading nonviolent campaigns to promote human welfare.

A jury headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh selected Archbishop Tutu in September 2006 for championing human rights and democracy in South Africa. The archbishop, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, worked for reconciliation of parties involved in apartheid, the former system of racial segregation in South Africa by which the descendants of European settlers oppressed the African majority.

Speaking to UCA News, Fr MD Thomas, secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India Commission for Ecumenism and Dialogue, said that Gandhi's principles based on nonviolence and welfare of all continue to be particularly relevant in a world "driven by materialist and market values".

Fr Alwyn D'Souza, secretary of the bishops' commission for youth, also told UCA News that Gandhi's teachings are "more relevant in today's world than ever before."

Elaborating, he said that "Gandhi had a simple life but with high principles, which today's youth must learn apart from his other principles of nonviolent protest."

Shaiby Mathew, General Secretary of the Indian Catholic Youth Movement, shares a similar opinion.

Gandhi, who gave up his personal life to struggle for Indian independence, always will "be honoured for not only his actions but also for the principles he taught and practiced," according to Mathew, who gave up teaching for two years to work as a full-time volunteer for the movement.

Satyagraha Centenary Stresses Relevance Of Peaceful Resistance Against Injustice (UCA News, 5/2/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Gandhi (Wikipedia)

6 Feb 2007