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Bishop honored with peace award

Bishop George H. Niederauer, right, receives an award from Boyer Jarvis of the Gandhi Alliance for Peace on Sunday at Jordan Park.
Bishop George H. Niederauer, right, receives an award from Boyer Jarvis of the Gandhi Alliance for Peace on Sunday at Jordan Park.
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News

In accepting a peace prize Sunday, Bishop George H. Niederauer of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City emphasized the importance of tolerance.

"He taught that intolerance is always a form of violence," Bishop Niederauer said, referring to the great Indian leader Mohandas K. Gandhi. And Gandhi also held that violence is not acceptable even in a good cause, he said.

The Gandhi Alliance for Peace, a Utah organization, met in Jordan Park on the 135th anniversary of Gandhi's birth to present Bishop Niederauer with its annual Gandhi Peace Award. About 180 attended the ceremony in the park amphitheater.

Many of those present were dressed in Indian clothing. A haunting rendition of "Amazing Grace" by Becca Terry, a devotional song by the children of the Bal Vihar group, and recitation and dance by the Unity Baha'i Youth Performers were among the activities.

According to the society, the peace award is intended to recognize people who, by example, uphold and promote Gandhi's ideals. The group cited Bishop Niederauer's efforts to maintain cordial relations among various religions and ethnic communities, as well as his "persistently courageous and eloquent calls for peace."

Gandhi's nickname was Mahatma, Gandhi was called Mahatma, which means great soul. According to Bishop Niederauer, Gandhi repeatedly stressed how much his faith in God means to him.

"But for my faith in God, I should have been a raving maniac," he quoted Gandhi. That tells us how much his faith meant to him, theCatholic bishop added.

"Non-violence Nonviolence means reliance on God, the rock of ages," he added. Gandhi needed to rely on God in his quest to obtain India's independence from British colonial rule, and in his efforts to promote peace in the region.

Gandhi felt that religion must not be only belief. It also had to have good works, he said. A man can't be cruel and claim that God is on his side, he continued.

Bishop Niederauer said the Gandhi award is "humbling enough, but to have my name in the same sentence with Gandhi is humbling indeed."

He recalled the time in 1948 when Gandhi was assassinated by a fanatic while he was on his way to prayers. At the time, the future Bishop Niederauer was a child. He was walking with his parents in Long Beach, Calif., when they came upon a special newspaper edition announcing Gandhi's death.

His father bought a copy of the paper and explained what had happened. The event had such an impact on him that he remembered it 56 years later.

Today, Gandhi's teachings are more pertinent to us than ever, he said.

"Our world has a desperate need for peace," he added.

In presenting the award, Boyer Jarvis, the society's treasurer, said that since Bishop Niederauer arrived in the Salt Lake Diocese in 1994, he has been a dynamic leader, reaching out to those in need.

"He is a man of peace."