Presently India is grappling with many serious problems, religious and caste divide being the crucial one. The reign of Bharatiya Janata Party at centre has been marred by spread of hatred and revenge based on religion and violent conflicts between the dalits and the upper castes. Against this backdrop the concerned citizens of this country are anxious about the increasing internal conflicts within the Indian society. This year being the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, a good number of articles appeared in the newspapers on October 2, highlighting the relevance of the ideals and principals of Mahatma Gandhi not only to solve the problems of India, but also the problems of the world. Even political leaders, who often resort to divisive vote bank politics, are also realizing the significance of Mahatma Gandhi. Many newspapers published on October 2, PM’s blog tribute: “Most Beautiful Aspect of Mahatma Gandhi”.
“India is a land of diversity. If there was one person who brought everyone together, made people rise above differences, to fight colonialism and enhanced India's stature at the world stage, it was Mahatma Gandhi," wrote the Prime Minister. He also highlighted Gandhiji’s contributions like non-violent means of conflict resolution, inclusive growth and sensitivity to other human persons.
Universal Solidarity Movement of Value Education for Peace (USM) has been engaged in building a civilization of love for the last 25 years by bringing about transformation in the youth through value education. It has realized the power of Mahatma Gandhi to build a peaceful and harmonious society. That is why it took the initiative under the leadership Fr. Varghese Alengadan to organize a National Peace Convention in 2015 in Indore. It believes in the dictum, “Light a candle instead cursing the darkness.” At the end of the first National Peace Convention in Indore the National Peace Movement was born. Thereafter three National Peace conventions were organized at Dimapur in Nagaland, Goa and Kochi respectively in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
One of the goals of National Peace Movement and the annual peace convention is highlighting the contribution of Mahatma Gandhi for building peace and his relevance for India and the world today. Hence the National Peace Convention starts on January 30th, the death anniversary of Gandhiji. The fifth National Peace Convention is planned to be held at Shofar Conference Centre, Gurgaon, near Delhi from 30th January to 1st February 2019.
As a part of the action plan prepared at the end of the National Peace Convention in Kochi in January 2018 various programmes for promoting peace and harmony are organized at the state and local levels. Screening the movie, Gandhi, in various schools is one of the follow up programmes. The objective is to inspire the young generation with the message of Gandhiji, especially non-violence as a means for conflict resolution and peace building. Regional/ state level peace conventions are organized this year in Coimbatore, Mumbai and Kannur in Kerala. On the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti peace rally was organized in many places. The peace rally and meeting organized in Sonkach town of Madhya Pradesh deserves special mention.
On 2nd October, about 1000 people marched through the heart of the town to the tunes of band and patriotic songs. People lined up on two sides of the road and they showered flower petals on the participants of the peace rally as an expression of their appreciation and support. People from all walks life and religions participated in the rally: students, teachers, farmers, professionals, business men and religious leaders walked together as a sign of unity and brotherhood.
At different places, especially in front of temples and mosques, the religious and community leaders participating in the rally were garlanded and honoured by the citizens’ groups. Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal of Indore diocese was given a prominent place in the rally. At some places people welcomed the participants of the rally with drinking water and sweets. Hoardings were put up at more than 30 locations with the message of peace and harmony. The whole town wore a festive mood.
The rally was, in fact, a loud declaration that the ideals and principles of Mhatama Gandhi are relevant and they have the power to unite the people of India. Gandhiji’s favourite Bhajan, Vaishnav Jantho, sung to the tunes of band reminded the people the spirituality of Mahatma Gandhi.
Vaishnav jan to tene kahiye je
PeeD paraayi jaaNe re
Par-dukhkhe upkaar kare toye
Man abhimaan na aaNe re (Vaishnava)
is a Vaishnav (Devotee of Vishnu)
Knows the pain of others
Does good to others
without letting pride enter his mind.)
The rally that started from Gita Bhavan near the bus stand took about an hour to reach Parinay Garden, the venue of the public meeting. Following the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi the public meeting started with an inter-religious prayer. Students of different religious communities: Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains and Buddhists said prayers in accordance with their religious tradition. People sat through the public meeting for about three hours. They attentively heard the messages shared by a dozen speakers. The central theme of all messages was that Gandhiji has become a source of inspiration not only for India but also to the whole world to build a civilization of love.
The speakers also paid rich tribute to Lal Bahadur Shastri for his contribution to build a peaceful and prosperous India. On this occasion almost all speakers highlighted the contribution of Universal Solidarity Movement (USM) in promoting peace and the transformation that is being brought about in the students through value education under the leadership of Fr. Varghese Alengadan.
When peace and harmony in the society are destroyed by the fundamentalist forces, it is the responsibility of the disciples of Jesus to become facilitators and animators of peace. The experience of USM vindicates that bringing back Mahatma Gandhi to the centre stage of socio-political discourse in the country is an excellent means to bring the people of different communities to one platform and build peace and harmony among them.
The Church personnel in India have a wonderful opportunity to play the role of builders of peace and bring about transformation in the society through the promotion of the values and principles of Mahatma Gandhi. Encouraging students to read the auto-biography of Gandhiji, screening the movie, Gandhi to the students and youth and holding discussion on the relevance of Gandhi, conducting competitions in essay writing, speech, painting etc. on the life and contribution of Gandhiji and organizing peace rally involving all communities are some of the methods adopted by schools and members of National Peace Movement. This, indeed, could be a new way of evangelization by becoming new wineskins.
(firstname.lastname@example.org)(Published on 08th October 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 41)