Walk supports Gandhi’s message

Nonviolence needed today, his grandson tells crowd

<!– PUBLISH DATE TimeSincePublished(“2009-10-05-04:30:00″,”2009-10-05″,”Oct. 05, 2009”);–> , The Hamilton Spectator
(Oct 5, 2009)

Hundreds of peace demonstrators walked through downtown Hamilton on the weekend to support the nonviolence philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi in a world they say is becoming increasingly confrontational.

“Gandhi’s message is more important today than ever before as nations across the world continue to grapple with the threat of conflict, violence and terrorism” said Preeti Saran, consul general of India.

“As long as there is a temptation to resort to violence in the human mind, Mahatma Gandhi’s message of nonviolence will tug at our hearts.”

Saran was one of several speakers at the 17th annual peace festival Saturday.

The festival aimed at encouraging “nonviolence, peace and justice,” began at McMaster University’s Downtown Centre on Main Street with speeches, songs and dances. After the peace walk, participants returned to the centre for a vegetarian lunch.

Among the speakers was Rajmohan Gandhi, a historian, biographer and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.

He talked about the Gandhi principle of “Swadeshi,” the idea of strengthening communities by making them more self-sufficient. An example in Hamilton would be campaigns to encourage buying local food rather than depending on imported supplies from the south.

He also said people who are serious about peace must play a role in eradicating suspicion and prejudice between Muslim and non-Muslim worlds.

He said current tension in some ways is more troubling than animosities during the Cold War. The fight then was between governments, whereas today anxieties are between people.

“Many in the so-called Muslim world feel the western world is against them. They think something is wrong with the western world.

“In many parts of the western world there is a deep feeling against Muslims as a people … not just about the governments, but about the people of those countries.

“People who are serious about peace must play a role in building bridges between both sides.”

One positive local example of bringing sides together is an ambitious and successful “peace project” at the Six Nations Reserve.

Teacher Suzie Miller, from Emily C. General Elementary School in Ohsweken, told the crowd about a pen-pal program between pupils at her school and children attending other Caledonia-area schools.

“Having kids write to each other helps them understand each other,” she said.

More than 400 young people are involved.

Ten classes at Ohsweken and 10 classes in the surrounding community take part.