MEMO: International Day of Non-Violence

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INTRODUCTION

The International Day of Non-Violence is marked on 2 October, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement and pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of non-violence.

This world has seen its share of bloody wars that ended countless lives and filled many more with grief. No matter what country you go to, there are stories of how someone’s greed or lust for power resulted in the killing of innocent people and the destruction of beautiful cities. Even wars that were fought for a good cause, like the Civil War of the United States of America, that resulted in slavery being abolished, have been responsible for a great many deaths. Fortunately, however, there are people in this world who have gone about making the changes they thought necessary without violence or pure brute force, and these are the people that the International Day of Non-Violence celebrates. No matter where you live, there’s no denying that a day celebrating non-violent ways of making a statement and bringing about change is long overdue, and that these peaceful strategies for fighting injustice more than definitely deserve their own day.

The History of the International Day of Non-Violence

The International Day of Non-Violence is observed on October 2nd in honor of the birthday of Mahatma Ghandi, one of the most influential political activists of all time. Ghandi used nonviolent civil disobedience to eventually overthrow the British, who ruled India at the time. Despite being thrown in jail numerous times, but nothing ever caused him to abandon his peaceful approach, which eventually resulted in India finally gaining the independence they’d wanted for years. The independence of his country was not the only issue Ghandi found important, however; he was also keenly interested in building good relationships between people of different religions and ethnicities, expanding women’s rights, and reducing the amount of poverty. Even though he was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist in 1948, he has never been forgotten, and is called “the father of the nation” by most Indians. On June 15th, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly voted to make the anniversary of Mahatma Ghandi’s birth the International Day of Non-Violence. The day is mostly dedicated to spreading the message of non-violence to as many people as possible in all countries of the world.

How to Celebrate the International Day of Non-Violence

One of the best ways to honour Mahatma Ghandi’s life and achievements, as well as those of other world leaders who have won their battles without violence, you could choose one of these people and read their biography—find out what motivated them to act as they did, what helped keep them strong even when they saw terrible things happening all around them. Such people include Civil Rights activists Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, Beatles star John Lennon, humanitarian activist and “King of Calypso” Harry Belafonte, and of course anti-apartheid movement leader Nelson Mandela. The life stories of each of these people is fascinating and inspiring. If you have children, this day could be the perfect time to teach them the virtues of bravery, compassion, and perseverance. Children can be cruel to one another, so it is important to instill strong feelings of right and wrong in your children in hopes they will become good, strong adults and worthy successors of the people mentioned above. Children are, after all, the future, and the people who will shape history. However you decide to observe the International Day of Non-Violence, make sure you do what you can to honor the bravery and goodness of people like Mahatma Ghandi and carry on their

According to General Assembly resolution A/RES/61/271 of 15 June 2007, which established the commemoration, the International Day is an occasion to “disseminate the message of non-violence, including through education and public awareness”. The resolution reaffirms “the universal relevance of the principle of non-violence” and the desire “to secure a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and non-violence”.

Introducing the resolution in the General Assembly on behalf of 140 co-sponsors, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr. Anand Sharma, said that the wide and diverse sponsorship of the resolution was a reflection of the universal respect for Mahatma Gandhi and of the enduring relevance of his philosophy. Quoting the late leader’s own words, he said: “Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man”.

The life and leadership of Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi, who helped lead India to independence, has been the inspiration for non-violent movements for civil rights and social change across the world. Throughout his life, Gandhi remained committed to his belief in non-violence even under oppressive conditions and in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.

The theory behind his actions, which included encouraging massive civil disobedience to British law as with the historic Salt March of 1930, was that “just means lead to just ends”; that is, it is irrational to try to use violence to achieve a peaceful society. He believed that Indians must not use violence or hatred in their fight for freedom from colonialism.

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Definition of Non-Violence

The principle of non-violence — also known as non-violent resistance — rejects the use of physical violence in order to achieve social or political change. Often described as “the politics of ordinary people”, this form of social struggle has been adopted by mass populations all over the world in campaigns for social justice.

Professor Gene Sharp, a leading scholar on non-violent resistance, uses the following definition in his publication, The Politics of Nonviolent Action:

“Nonviolent action is a technique by which people who reject passivity and submission, and who see struggle as essential, can wage their conflict without violence. Nonviolent action is not an attempt to avoid or ignore conflict. It is one response to the problem of how to act effectively in politics, especially how to wield powers effectively.”

While non-violence is frequently used as a synonym for pacifism, since the mid-twentieth century the term non-violence has been adopted by many movements for social change which do not focus on opposition to war.

One key tenet of the theory of non-violence is that the power of rulers depends on the consent of the population, and non-violence therefore seeks to undermine such power through withdrawal of the consent and cooperation of the populace.

There are three main categories of non-violence action:

  • protest and persuasion, including marches and vigils;
  • non-cooperation; and
  • non-violent intervention, such as blockades and occupations.

Event

“Significance of Non-violence in Today’s World”

(organized by the Permanent Mission of India)

Monday, 2 October 2017

09:45 to 11:15, Economic and Social Council Chamber

Resources

Documents

Related Websites

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