Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 16, 2003
Blessed are the peacemakers
Each of us must create harmony
By SUZANNE ELSTON
I can remember the day that I stopped being a child. It was the evening of April 4, 1968, a few weeks shy of my 14th birthday. My parents were out, my baby brother safely in bed, and I was enjoying a peaceful evening of watching television when the news broke. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., father of the American civil right movement, had been shot dead.
I felt like I'd been shot, too. What was so peculiar about my reaction was that I was a child of privilege, growing up white, free and affluent in a country known for its quality of life and its peacekeeping efforts. I had never known violence, prejudice or poverty, and yet somehow the death of this remarkable black man shook my middle-class teenage soul. Until then, I don't think I realized that I even had one.
What I did know for sure was that something of great beauty and strength had gone from the world and that somehow we would never be the same. Ironically, it was the very tragedy of Dr. King's death that forever etched his dream on the conscience of my generation - a watermark of exactly how far we needed to go.
Dr. King's dream was inspired by another great leader and advocate for peace, Mahatma Gandhi. It was Gandhi who taught us that, "We must be the change we wish to see." Like King, Gandhi's life was cut short by an assassin's bullet, on Jan. 30, 1948 - 20 years before King's death.
Season of NonviolenceToday we need the message of these two great men more than ever. The rising death tolls in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine remind us daily that peace eludes us still. And so to remind us that peace begins within the heart of each and every one of us, The Season of Nonviolence, from Jan. 30 to April 4 is dedicated to demonstrating that nonviolence is a powerful way to heal, transform, and empower our lives and our communities. Inspired by the memorial anniversaries of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Season of Nonviolence honours their vision and strives to build a community that honours the dignity and worth of every human being.
Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and founder of The M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, explains that using violence to overcome prejudice and hate only creates a bigger and bigger circle of hatred and war. "An eye for an eye," grandfather said, "makes the whole world blind." One is right when one says that one cannot negotiate with terrorists when they are in the act of committing terrorism. But killing them is not the answer either."
If not might for right, then what? As a starting point, Gandhi taught that we must first learn to respect others and accept the interdependence and interconnectedness of all life. Secondly, we must begin to understand the "whys" of being here, both for ourselves and others. Thirdly, through respect and understanding, we can begin to accept one another's differences. And finally, by accepting our differences we will ultimately learn to celebrate those things that make us unique.
While Gandhi's teachings are beautiful in their simplicity, we clearly haven't learned our lessons. So it's time we did some studying.
To that end, celebrate the Season of Nonviolence by learning the Principles of Nonviolence, taught by Dr. King. Stick them on your refrigerator, read them every night before you go to bed or say them every morning when you meditate. Eventually, the message will get through.
Principles of Nonviolence
Recommended websites:For more about A Season for Nonviolence, visit the Association for Global New Thought website at www.agnt.org and click on "what's new," or visit 2004 Gandhi-King Season www.gandhi-king-season.net.
The M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence was founded in 1991 by the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi to promote the principles of nonviolence and resolve personal and public conflicts through research, education, and programming. Visit www.gandhiinstitute.org.
The King Center was established in 1968 by Mrs. Coretta Scott King as a living memorial and institutional guardian of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy. Go to the kingcenter.com.
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