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The 150th Birth Anniversary Celebration of Mahatma Gandhi.

October 2, 2018       ICT Hall, University of the South Pacific, Suva.

The High Commissioner of India to Fiji, Your Excellency, Mr. Vishvas Sapkal; 

The Representatives of the various religious organisations present here tonight;

Distinguished Guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Namaskar, ni sa bula vinaka and a very good evening to you all.

I am deeply honoured to join you this evening to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, widely known around the world as Mahatma Gandhi, the primary leader of India’s independence movement and architect of a form of non-violent opposition to what was then oppressive rule. 

As you have heard from our speakers tonight, Gandhi Ji’s beliefs in self-determination and peaceful co-existence transcend time. His beliefs are still very relevant in the 21st century, as they were in the 19th and 20th centuries. The life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is a story of heroic effort to establish the values of truth and non-violence in humanity. In pursuing this, he became a Mahatma or sage.  He became a messenger and liberator for many people not only in India and South Africa where he started his movement, but also in many other countries around the world where people were drawn to his ideals and principles.

Mahatma Gandhi’s five pillars of nonviolence: respect, understanding, acceptance, appreciation and compassion are absolutely vital to our existence. These are simple habits, characteristics or traits that we can all try to emulate and nurture at a personal level, which will have an impact on our relationship with one another and on each person’s perspective of the world around us.

Gandhi Ji’s faith in the power of nonviolence can be reflected by this quote, “Nonviolence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed.”.

Appropriately, it is also on the Mahatma’s birthday that the United Nations observes the International Day of Non-Violence. The occasion of his 150th Birth Anniversary offers an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the many virtues including the principles of peace and harmony that Ghandi Ji espoused. It is also an opportunity to relate these virtues and principles to what is happening in society today. 

One wonders if many more people adopted similar worldviews as Ghandi Ji, the world would certainly be a better place with less violence based on inter-religious acrimony and terrorism, among other atrocities which unfortunately, are being committed in some conflict zones around the world today.

In this regard, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to commend and thank the Indian High Commission here in Suva for organising this evening’s event. It is very appropriate that the theme of today’s inter-faith dialogue is, “Mahatma Gandhi: A Symbol of Peace and Harmony,” representing the core of his life and works. 

The discussion, which was led by Mr. Haffizudin Khan of the Fiji Muslim League, the Reverend James Bhagwan of the Methodist Church of Fiji, and Swami Tadanand of the Rama Krishna Mission, will undoubtedly generate good food for thought on the efforts to promote peace and harmony in society.  

I am reliably informed that the Government of India, through its Mission here in Suva, plans to promote Gandhi Ji’s teachings and principles of peace and harmony, especially to the younger generation. This is most welcome.

Gandhi Ji’s eclectic perspective on religion and peace through inter-faith dialogue and cooperation can be explained through his ideals on religious inclusivity or the vendanta philosophy and religious diversity or ane-kata-vada, which is the Jain principle of relative pluralism. Essentially, he believed in the spiritual unity of humanity, a oneness in faith regardless of whether a person was a believer of Islam, Hinduism, or Christianity.  Gandhi Ji’s Interfaith Talanoa can also be a means to further dialogue on issues that affect our beloved nation, Fiji. 

Issues such as climate change mitigation, which the Fijian Government, through the Honourable Prime Minister has been strongly promoting internationally, and accosting the rise in Non-Communicable Diseases. These are issues that need strong commitment from everyone in society. They are issues that could be resolved if we were to apply the principles and virtues that Ghandi Ji believed in. 

I thank you, High Commissioner, for inviting me to join you this evening. I would also like to acknowledge the increasingly strong ties that Fiji and the Republic of India have cultivated over the years. 

May the mutual interest in people-to-people relations, and the transfer of knowledge and expertise between our countries continue to strengthen and expand.

May Almighty God bless us all.

Bhahut dhanyavaad, vinaka vakalevu and thank you.