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Waging Peace

"We may no longer believe in the doctrine `tit for tat', we may not meet hatred with hatred, violence with violence, evil with evil... Return good for evil."

Mahatma Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had a peace mission. His mission was to teach the Indian people about courage and discipline, a force more powerful than all their numbers. Through his teachings, Gandhi united a nation of 300 million people with a respect and love for humanity. Through love and non-violence, the peoples of India successfully challenged and overcame the evils of their British imperial oppressors.

In the early 20th century, India was not at peace. Since the 18th century, India had been a colony of British rule, afflicted with foreign laws and Anglo-Saxon traditions. Gandhi taught his followers to search for their inner strength through a higher moral conscience than that of their oppressors. Gandhi was a compassionate peace hero who led the Indian people on a remarkable journey for peace.

Gandhi's peace mission was characterized by techniques of non-violence and non-cooperation. He believed that peace could not be secured with weapons, nor did he advocate retaliation by physical attack. His campaign for justice was known as Satyagraha or "Soul Force." It taught the individual to resist brutality through non-violent means. Thus, while the British officials halted Indian movements with guns and knives, non-violent resisters sought to reach the hearts of the oppressors to the extent that they would realize the evil of beating a human who would not fight back. This teaching demonstrated Gandhi's universal respect for humanity in that he believed his oppressors would choose good over evil.

To reach the hearts of his followers and to emphasize the importance of a cause, Gandhi used a powerful tool: fasting, the deliberate refusal of food. Gandhi fasted for days, sometimes drinking water, and other times abstaining from all food and drink. He fasted to bring moral weight to numerous causes including increased tolerance of religions, respect for the lower social class known as the "untouchables," as well as against the racial discrimination imposed by British law. As Gandhi willingly endured this harsh treatment of his body, it became evident to the world that nothing could hinder Gandhi's dream of a peaceful India.

Whether a success or failure, Gandhi's religious and political movements ignited an emotional spirit among his followers. Although religiously a Hindu, when he lay weak from fasting, he further called attention to the need for religious tolerance by requesting Muslim and Christian doctors and nurses. His devotion to brotherhood reflected his dream of uniting diverse peoples in his country as well as internationally. At the age of 60, on March 12, 1930, Gandhi and seventy-eight men and women challenged the injustice of Indian discrimination by completing a two hundred mile march to the seacoast. The British had a monopoly on salt manufacturing and Indians were forbidden to extract salt from the water.

This event led to a nationwide boycotting of British goods and services. His teachings of non-violent resistance were very successful, for many protesters never lifted an arm to those who ruthlessly attacked their bodies. When Gandhi called for a total suspension of economic activity, to demonstrate the Indians' demands for respect of their rights, a British General retaliated with the killing of 379 Indians at a peaceful protest. Yet Gandhi would not seek peace at the expense of blood drenching. Until his death in 1948 Gandhi would continue to pray and educate the world to search for peace by peaceful means.

In a nation engulfed by religious divisions and political persecution, Gandhi welcomed all into his heart. He believed that the world could find peace through a universal respect for humanity. As a peace hero, Gandhi wished for future generations to embrace peace as a way of life and to share it with others.

Author: Andrea Walker

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