On the 50th anniversary of his grandfather’s assassination, Arun Gandhi formally launched a campaign of nonviolence in an emotional ceremony Friday that also honored another champion of peace, Martin Luther King Jr.
“A Season for Nonviolence” is a 64-day educational campaign that will mark the time between Friday’s anniversary of the assassination of Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi and the 30th anniversary of the assassination of the American civil rights leader on April 4.
In between, participants will organize workshops, school assemblies, concerts, festivals and other events around the world to promote the nonviolence philosophy practiced by King and Gandhi.
Although the two never met, “They shared the same dream, that if we make an attempt, we can achieve a world where peace and harmony can prevail,” Gandhi told an audience at the United Nations that included King associate the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
“They dreamed that there would be a time when we would not look upon ourselves or identify ourselves by the color of our skin or the race that we belong to,” said Gandhi, who has devoted his life to furthering his grandfather’s legacy through his M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in Memphis, Tenn.
In his remarks, Jackson noted how both men were “leaders of awesome stature,” who changed the world through “applied nonviolence.”
He quoted King when he said, “Moral leaders of substance don’t follow opinion polls, they mold opinion. Not with their guns, or dollars or position, but with the power of their souls.”
But it was Gandhi who struck a poignant note with the audience of about 1,500, which rose to its feet in applause several times during his speech and sat in hushed silence when he spoke of “grandfather.”
“I can recall 50 years ago, where I was when I heard the sad news of my grandfather’s assassination,” Gandhi began, as he explained how he came home from school and found his mother at home on the telephone, crying.
Choking up, he told the crowd of his shock and anger.
“But my father and my mother, they both told me that grandfather would never forgive you if you think such thoughts, that you have to forgive the person for what he has done and not hate him.
“And I learned the power of forgiveness on that day,” Gandhi said.