By Dr. Sudarshan Kapoor
“Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”
Mahatma Gandhi, the great spiritual, social and political leader of India, is considered the most revered figure of the 20th century. He will remain so because of his message of peace, love and the universal relevance of the principle of nonviolence. Recognizing his immense contribution to freedom struggles across the world, human rights and novel method of mass mobilization (Satyagraha) to fight oppression, the UN General Assembly on June 15, 2007, designated Oct. 2, Gandhi’s birthday, as the International Day of Nonviolence, which is now observed by 193 member nations.
Gandhi, who through nonviolent means led India to achieve its independence from British rule in 1947, influenced and inspired many leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama, Cesar E. Chavez, Lech Walesa, Aung San Su Kyi and others who carried their struggles based on the philosophy of nonviolence. His moral and novel methods brought down colonialism, imperialism and dictatorships and strengthened the roots of popular sovereignty of civil, political and economic rights.
Gandhi is regarded as the father of the human rights movement of the 20th century and the patron saint of the peace and environmental justice oriented struggles of the modern era. The original phase of the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement got inspiration from Gandhi and used nonviolent tactics in their overall approach.
Though born in India on Oct. 2, 1869, and known as the father of the Indian Nation, Gandhi really belongs to the whole of humanity because of the universality of his message and teachings, which have special significance and relevance in today’s troubled world mired in religious hatred, political division, racial prejudice and human exploitation.
Dr. King spoke of Gandhi: “Gandhi was inevitable. If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought and acted, inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of peace and harmony. We may ignore him at our own risk.”
Gandhi’s birthday has now become an international observance, but Fresno State has been commemorating his birthday since 1990 with a powerful message of “Stop the Hate, Stop the Violence, Build a Culture of Peace.”
In his proclamation, Dr. Joseph I. Castro, president of Fresno State, declared that the campus community would join the world community to honor Gandhi on his 145th birthday. The celebration at Fresno State includes a garlanding and flower ceremony, a musical tribute, cultural dances, guided meditation and a pledge against hate.
In the City of Fresno’s proclamation, Mayor Ashley Swearengin and the City Council of Fresno have declared Gandhi’s birthday as “Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Day” in the City of Fresno.
Celebrate the 145th birthday of Gandhi, the patron saint of the peace movement and father of the human rights movement in the 20th century, on Oct. 2 at Fresno State with a candlelight vigil for world peace at 7:30 p.m. in the Peace Garden and on Oct. 4 with a community celebration at 9:30 a.m. in the Peace Garden. Admission is free. Parking is relaxed. Call 559-435-2212 for additional information and to get a campus parking code for the Oct. 2 candlelight vigil.
Sudarshan Kapoor, Ph.D., is currently the chair of the Human Rights Coalition of the Central Valley. He is the founder of the Peace Garden and former founding director of the Peace and Conflict Studies program at Fresno State. Contact him at 559-435-2212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.