"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