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Searching for a King to Broker Era of Peace: Grandson of Gandhi Urges Palestinians to Embrace Nonviolence

Friday, 21. November 2003
Rajmohan Gandhi

Rajmohan Gandhi

Rajmohan Gandhi prays for a Palestinian in the mold of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to use principles of nonviolence to bring peace to the Middle East.

Rajmohan Gandhi

Rajmohan Gandhi

"So many places in the world see daily violence. I wish we could communicate to them that we feel for them and that we would like to assist them," Gandhi said. He is the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, whose nonviolent principles helped gain India's independence from Britain and inspired King and other leaders of the American civil-rights movement.

"If I were a Palestinian, I really would try some of the strategies of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.," said Gandhi, co-chairman of the Center for Dialogue and Reconciliation in Gurgaon, India.

"Who would not want the Palestinians to have a state of their own in a land they have inhabited for centuries?" he added. "But violent acts that destroy women and children and old people greatly hurt the Palestinian cause in the eyes of people who otherwise would be sympathetic to them."

Gandhi, also a visiting professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was in Richmond for last night's 10th anniversary celebration of Hope in the Cities, an organization that works to bridge racial and cultural divides.

He spoke at the Hope in the Cities gala at the future site of the Tredegar National Civil War Center.

More than 500 people celebrated with music, food and photographs of the Richmond area projected on a large screen. The One Voice Choir, a multicultural community group, performed music that ranged from classical pieces to spirituals.

Hope in the Cities presented its Reconciliation Award to Cleiland Donnan, a member of its board, for her work in bringing together people of different races to talk and get to know each other.

In an interview earlier in the day, Gandhi said, "I'm not carrying any panacea or solution for world peace, not by a long shot."

"The ordinary citizen can only do his or her bit in the community to which they belong. That's a lot. When a violence-prone area becomes peaceful, that has a tremendous effect on the world."

He says a yearning for reconciliation is programmed into everyone's personality, along with fear, anger and impatience. Sometimes those traits result in violence and destruction.

"Sept. 11 showed that this wonderful continent is also very much part of the world as a whole, with all its furies. We have to achieve reconciliation at the global level."

He is not involved in a fight for universal disarmament, he said.

"In our imperfect world situations, nations will reserve the right to use force in defense of human life. But force has to be a last and final resort."

It is important to communicate to frustrated, angry and aggrieved people that "we are on their side. That we feel for them. That they don't have to use destruction to obtain what they want, whether it's Africa, the Muslim world or India-Pakistan," he added.

Gandhi wasn't the only international supporter of nonviolence who visited Richmond last week.

Jawdat Said, who lives in Syria, spoke at a dinner sponsored by A More Perfect Union, the Metropolitan Richmond Anti-Bias Project. About 50 people attended the program Thursday at the University of Richmond.

Said, a Muslim educator and intellectual who has been imprisoned five times for his political and religious views, told the gathering that Islam does not "allow the establishment of political authority through the use of violence."

Gandhi and Said met Friday and discussed their ideas.

Although Gandhi was only 12 when his grandfather died, he said he admired his grandfather and King.

"They both did what was necessary, what was difficult, what required courage. And they welcomed everyone into their hearts, including the supposed enemy."

BY ALBERTA LINDSEY
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER Nov 23, 2003

Learn more on the Hope in the Cities website.