By Kristen Johnson
Today is the anniversary of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of a peaceful non-violent protest movement in India against British Colonialism. He specifically opposed the separation of India into two states (India and Pakistan) – one Muslim, and the other Hindu. He was imprisoned several times for his peace movement. (Interfaith Peace Project).
There is so much we can learn from Gandhi in today’s hyper-violent, xenophobic, racist world. Just a few thoughts:
- He was a vegetarian.
- He suffered discrimination and participated early in civil disobedience – refusing to remove his turban in a courtroom when the court demanded that he do so, refusing to leave a first-class train compartment when a white man objected to his being there, and fighting against a law that would refuse voting rights to Indians.
- He organized mass civil-disobedience campaigns when the British government tried to limit freedoms for Indians.
- He organized peaceful protests and strikes against continued British authoritarian rules and regulations.
- He was assassinated by a Hindu extremist who was upset with his tolerance of Muslims. (Biography.com)
Considering recent events in the U.S., it is clear we can do well to emulate the actions of Gandhi. When we witness xenophobia, racism, classism, and sexism we can stand up and make our voices heard in a non-violent manner. I am noticing this quite a bit in the last week alone – the massive Women’s March (of which I was a proud participant), and the protests in U.S. airports (and airports outside the U.S.) against Donald Trump’s “ban” on people entering the country from 7 different countries. It is such a blessing that these protests are incredibly vocal, while remaining peaceful.
It is also interesting to note that Gandhi specifically did not want a separation of Hindus and Muslims and that he was actually assassinated for tolerance for a religious view other than his own. It’s incredible that more than 60 years have passed since Gandhi’s assassination, and we still can’t manage to live together peacefully. How slow we are to learn lessons from the past.
I am a great admirer of Gandhi’s commitment to peaceful civil disobedience, and his commitment to refusing to ignore justice. I am also an admirer of his commitment to vegetarianism which is summed up in his statement that “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” (PETA).
Stand for peace. Refuse to stand idly by when injustice surrounds us.
Isaiah 1:17 (NRSV): learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
Serve all with love.
Photo courtesy of: stocksnap.io