We live in a time of political uncertainty and perpetual conflict. While it’s easy to give up and say that you can’t change the world, that one person can’t make a difference, the inspiring life of Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) proves us wrong. Gandhi is the living embodiment of the values of democracy, and he inspires us to do good without ever giving up.
The Father of the Indian Nation
Leader of the Congress Party in 1921, Gandhi led national campaigns to reduce extreme poverty in India, give more rights to women, establish peace between hostile ethnic and religious groups, and gain the independence of the people. Perhaps his greatest legacy is the way he used non-violence to combat oppression, a belief adopted today by thousands of followers of peaceful resistance around the world. Indians often refer to him as the father of the nation. He owes his exceptional leadership to his way of building bridges between different communities: upper and lower caste Hindus, Muslims, Christians. Gandhi believes in the goodness of people, regardless of their religion, social class or gender. For him, no religion surpasses the pure force of true faith.
Strength of peaceful opposition
Eternally optimistic, Gandhi always believed in the ability of the human being to evolve towards a higher level of consciousness. This is what he demonstrated by leading by example into old age, turning every crisis and conflict into an opportunity for spiritual growth. “I never stopped being optimistic,” he said. « Even in the darkest moments, I always cultivated hope.».
Gandhi advocated religious harmony, he wanted equal rights for Muslims in India. When violence broke out between Muslims and Hindus, he resorted to fasting, repeatedly threatening to let himself die. He intended to be judged on deeds rather than words and firmly believed that his personal suffering would prompt men to lay down their arms.
Strengthened by this moral philosophy, his public and private life are closely linked. “Only the service of others makes it possible to apprehend the truth and discover the true nature,” he confides. He clearly showed us the power of peaceful opposition in the face of oppression, injustice and brutality.
However, non-violence is not about abstaining from any real struggle. It took a lot of courage for him to confront the violence and strengthen his convictions. “I oppose violence,” he once said, “because when it seems to produce good, the resulting good is only transitory, while the evil produced is permanent.”. Tragically, the irony is that Gandhi’s life ends in violence. He was assassinated on January 30, 1948 by the Hindu nationalist Nathuram Godse. Nearly 70 years after his death, the legacy he left us continues to live on and remains a true source of inspiration. In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2 October, Gandhi’s birthday, the International Day of Non-Violence.
Leading by example
Gandhi’s life served as a shining example to many political leaders including Martin Luther King, Václav Havel and Nelson Mandela, all of whom fought for social change. Their powerful message to us is to respect human dignity and reject intolerance. This is something we should all think about, especially considering the current political climate, where so many countries seem deeply divided in their way of thinking, that it would seem that there are two nations instead of one. While it is tempting to read the news and conclude that you cannot change anything about this sad situation, it is enough to remember Mahatma Gandhi and how he embodied the change he wanted to see in the world to convince yourself otherwise. One person can make a difference; our best hope for the future is to look to those men, women and movements that have positively acted in the past.