International Non-Violence Day

Today is the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, and is marked by International Non-Violence Day. Today is a day for remembering the lives lost in social oppression and violence, and a day to appeal to the better nature in all of us. Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence as a method for resistance and uprising inspired political leaders around the world, including Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yet, International Non-Violence Day falls this year during a time when America is still fighting wars in the Middle East. More than 5,000 troops have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. At home, men and women still suffer and die every day due to social injustice: the sick are denied life-saving healthcare while politicians quibble in Washington, inner-city children don’t have access to adequate public education, and people of colour are shot to death by those who are sworn to protect us.

The anger I feel at these injustices challenge the principles of non-violence; yet it is imperative that the anger that would tempt us away from non-violence be used to funnel political activists towards effective, and yes peaceful, action. I think what that action is can differ for everybody. However small the act, a protest is still a protest: the important thing is that one acts, and does not remain passive. For me, this blog is my protest — sparking discussion, I believe, can overthrow a system of inequity by helping raise awareness and stir political activism.

President Obama released a statement today about Gandhi’s influence on modern world history:

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 1, 2009

Statement by President Obama on
Mahatma Gandhi’s Birth Anniversary

On behalf of the American people, I want to express appreciation for the life and lessons of Mahatma Gandhi on the anniversary of his birth. This is an important moment to reflect on his message of non-violence, which continues to inspire people and political movements across the globe.

We join the people of India in celebrating this great soul who lived a life dedicated to the cause of advancing justice, showing tolerance to all, and creating change through non-violent resistance. Americans owe an enormous measure of gratitude to the Mahatma. His teachings and ideals, shared with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his 1959 pilgrimage to India, transformed American society through our civil rights movement. The America of today has its roots in the India of Mahatma Gandhi and the nonviolent social action movement for Indian independence which he led. Tomorrow, as we remember the Mahatma on his birthday, we must renew our commitment to live his ideals and to celebrate the dignity of all human beings.

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