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UN chief, envoys highlight relevance of Gandhi's non-violence, equality

UN Secretary-General Guterres, in his video message, said: "In marking the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, this International Day highlights the remarkable power of non-violence and peaceful protests

UN Secretary General António Guterres (above) has invited world leaders to a Climate Action Summit on September 23 in New York
India’s Permanent Mission to the UN hosted the virtual celebration of the International Day of Non-Violence and the culmination of the celebrations of Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary.

Mahatma Gandhi's 151th birth anniversary is a timely reminder to strive to uphold his values, UN chief Antonio Guterres said on Friday as diplomats from around the world underscored the importance of Gandhi's principles of justice and equality for all on the occasion of the International Day of Non-Violence.

UN Secretary-General Guterres, in his video message, said: In marking the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, this International Day highlights the remarkable power of non-violence and peaceful protests.

It is also a timely reminder to strive to uphold values that Gandhi lived by - the promotion of dignity, equal protection for all and communities living together in peace.

India's Permanent Mission to the UN hosted the virtual celebration of the International Day of Non-Violence and the culmination of the celebrations of Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary.

The special commemoration included a video that showed reactions from the UN diplomats in the Security Council on Gandhi's assassination. It also showed footage of world leaders, including former US president Barack Obama, citing Gandhi's principles and ideologies during their addresses to the UN General Assembly over the years.

India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti said: When we look at Gandhi primarily as the apostle of peace and non-violence, I feel that we will be missing the point. That's because we are not discussing non-violence in a vacuum.

Tirumurti said Gandhi's ultimate goal was truth and he realised that only the pursuit of truth could result in true non-violence.

Just as for him, non-violence itself became the pursuit of truth, he said, adding that Gandhi did not see political freedom as the only freedom worth fighting for but involved himself with as much fervor and conviction in liberating human beings from all forms of bondage and injustice.

Tirumurti stressed that for Gandhi, non-violence was not merely the absence of violence but non-violence was a weapon to fight injustice, both within and without.

Guterres said that on this year's observance of International Day of Non-violence, nations have a special duty - stop the fighting to focus on our common enemy COVID-19. There is only one winner of conflict during a pandemic - the virus itself.

During the special virtual commemoration, a host of UN Permanent Representatives spoke about Gandhi's legacy and his principles of equality and justice.

US envoy to the UN Ambassador Kelly Craft said Gandhi's life and teachings are as relevant today as they were during the struggle for India's independence and his message of non-violence has long resonated with the American people.

Gandhi, we can really use your presence today. Thankfully, your inspiration and guidance still resonates around the world. Gandhi's message of love, unity, compassion and tolerance is needed now more than ever in a world undergoing profound political, social and economic challenges.

This is especially true in 2020 as we fight an unprecedented pandemic and witness autocratic governments in Asia, South America, Eastern Europe and in the Middle East torture and murder of dissidents and violent crackdown on peaceful protest, she said.

All of us are suffering the devastating effects of COVID-19. Gandhi's message of compassion and sacrifice to improve the lives of our neighbours ring more true than ever, she said.

Bangladesh's Permanent Representative to the UN Rabab Fatima said it is a happy coincidence that this year her country is celebrating the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Gandhiji's love for the good of the common people and his ideals of non-violence also influenced Bangabandhu and his life-long struggle to establish justice and freedom for his people, she said.

Japan's UN envoy Ishikane Kimihiro said that Gandhiji's philosophy of Sarvodaya' - welfare of all and Antyodaya' - leaving no one behind now takes the form of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Today the challenges we face are greater than ever, in diversity and in scale, due to the COVID-19 crisis, he said, adding that human security is at stake due to the pandemic and the international community should join hands in keeping Sarvodaya' and Antyodaya' in mind.

Sri Lanka's envoy to the UN Kshenuka Senewiratne said Gandhi's timeless thinking, principles and philosophy of non-violence have left an indelible mark across the globe, thereby shaping the manner in which we seek to resolve conflicts, overcome hatred and promote justice.

Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said that throughout his life, Gandhi remained committed to his belief in non-violence even under brutal oppressive regime and in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.

The Permanent Representative of the Maldives to the UN Thilmeeza Hussain said: What is the meaning of Satyagraha in these times when the multilateral prospect is tested by pandemic, conflict and climate change. What would Gandhiji say about the world so inclined to disintegration precisely at the moment when unity is needed.

She added that this is precisely the time that nations need to foster trust and collaboration between countries and recommit ourselves to multilateralism.

The UN envoys of Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Bhutan, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Lebanon, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Oman, South Africa, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines also spoke at the special commemoration.