Gandhi’s legacy of non-violent struggle vital in today’s world – UN officials

2 October 2008

The legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, whose non-violent struggle led to an independent India and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom around the globe, is vital in today’s world where the rights of too many people are still violated, top United Nations officials said today.

Marking the second annual International Day of Non-violence, observed on 2 October in honour of Gandhi’s birthday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that this year’s celebration falls during the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“There is a profound philosophical connection between the fundamental principles of human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration and those practised by Mahatma Gandhi,” Mr. Ban told a ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York.

“The answer for Mahatma Gandhi was always found in action… The rest of us can seek to emulate his spirit only by practising the tenets of non-violence, justice and peace.”

Mr. Ban highlighted the need to ensure that the rights in the Declaration are a living reality, that they are known, understood and enjoyed by everyone, everywhere. However, it is often that those who most need their human rights protected also need to be informed that the Declaration exists – and that it exists for them, he said.

“The rights of too many people around the world are still violated. That is why the Mahatma’s legacy is more important than ever,” the Secretary-General stated.

General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto recalled that Martin Luther King, Jr. followed Gandhi’s teachings during the civil rights struggle in the United States, revealing the power of non-violence “to begin to transform the course of even the most powerful nation in history.”

Mr. D’Escoto suggested that today people around the world adopt the word Satyagraha – the Sanskrit word describing Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violent resistance – and begin to reflect on its meaning.

“If we do so, we will have entered into the process of liberating humankind from its dependence on violence as a means to resolve differences,” he stated.


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