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Another forgiving Gandhi
Grandson seeks to cut violence around world

SHARE Another forgiving Gandhi
Grandson seeks to cut violence around world

PROVO -- As a boy, Arun Gandhi was filled with hate and thoughts of revenge as he grew up the victim of discrimination in apartheid South Africa.

Today, through the example of his grandfather Mohandas K. "Mahatma" Gandhi, Arun Gandhi seeks to reduce violence in all its forms throughout the world."The 20th century has become the most violent century in human history," Arun Gandhi said during a forum at Brigham Young University's Marriott Center Tuesday. "It makes one wonder what is going to happen to us in the 21st century."

Arun Gandhi helped start India's Center for Social Unity, an organization working against poverty and discrimination that has since improved the lives of more than 500,000 people. In 1991, he and his wife founded the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Non-violence, located at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tenn., where Arun Gandhi serves as a scholar-in-residence.

At age 10, Arun Gandhi was beaten by a group of white youths simply because of the color of his skin; a few months later, he was beaten by a group of black youths for the same reason.

"I was filled with that anger and rage and I wanted eye-for-eye justice," he said.

His parents sent him to live with his grandfather, India's spiritual leader and advocate of nonviolence. Arun Gandhi was tutored in his grandfather's philosophy.

"One of the first lessons I learned from him was learning how to deal with that anger," Arun Gandhi said. Mahatma Gandhi compared anger to electricity: Just as we must channel that force to use it for good in our lives, so must we channel our anger.

Arun Gandhi said more people should focus on the proactive part of his grandfather's philosophy: the avoidance of conflicts. If people could learn to deal with anger positively and build good relationships with each other, violence in society would be reduced 85 to 90 percent, he said.

In 1968, Arun Gandhi was living in India because his Indian-born wife was not allowed in South Africa. He told of how one day he suddenly came face-to-face with a South African official visiting India who was known for his support of apartheid. The man immediately took Arun's hand and shook it.

"My first response was to tell him to go jump in the sea," Arun Gandhi said. "I stopped myself immediately and said, 'What would grandfather say if I did that?' "

Over the next few days, Arun Gandhi treated the man as his guest. When the man left, he embraced Arun and shed tears of remorse, promising to fight against apartheid when he returned to South Africa. He remained true to his word.

"That was when I realized the power of nonviolence that it is very effective when we use it properly," Arun Gandhi said.

Each person can make a difference in reducing violence, he said, just as his grandfather did. "He didn't intend to become a great person," Arun Gandhi said.

Mahatma Gandhi had traveled to South Africa and was thrown off a train there because of the color of his skin. He sat on the train platform considering what to do, first wanting eye-for-an-eye justice and then pondering going back to India to live with his own people. However, he realized he could not run away from a problem, Arun Gandhi said.

His grandfather then thought of his third option: the idea of nonviolence.

"Ironically, if it hadn't been for racism and prejudice, we may not have had a Gandhi," Arun Gandhi said. Through this experience, his grandfather was changed.

When people seek eye-for-an-eye justice, they increase the level of violence in society, Arun Gandhi said. Also, while people are very familiar with physical violence, they are not so aware of passive violence, which is communicated through body language and the way one speaks and looks at others. The victim of passive violence may be led to commit physical violence.

Arun Gandhi said parents must live what they want their children to learn. "We have to set an example through our own lives," he said.