2 October 2007 The message of Mahatma Gandhi, whose peaceful struggle helped birth an independent India and inspired countless people around the world, is needed now more than ever amid rising global tensions, intolerance and conflict, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.
Addressing the General Assembly’s first-ever observance of the International Day of Non-violence, Mr. Ban said that communities around the globe were “increasingly mired in rising intolerance and cross-cultural tensions. We see extremist dogma and violent ideologies gaining ground, as moderate forces retreat.
“And we have witnessed lethal force being used against unarmed and non-violent marchers who exemplified the very spirit of the Mahatma’s teachings,” he added, referring to the recent wave of peaceful protests witnessed in Myanmar.
Calling the man who inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world a “personal hero,” Mr. Ban said that “by incorporating non-violence into everyday life, the Mahatma inspired countless individuals to lead better, more meaningful lives.”
He added, “The Mahatma’s inspiration is needed now more than ever.”
The Secretary-General said he hoped the Day, which will be observed annually on 2 October, Gandhi’s birthday, will help to advance true tolerance and non-violence at every level, from individuals all the way up to Governments.
“May this Day help spread Mahatma Gandhi’s message to an ever wider audience, and hasten a time when every day is a day without violence,” he said.
Also addressing the observance, General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim highlighted the need to spread the message that “non-violence, tolerance, respect for human rights, democracy, development, and diversity, are interlinked and mutually reinforcing.”
It was Gandhi’s belief, Mr. Kerim said, that intolerance was the worst form of violence, and that without genuine tolerance, no dialogue can have a lasting impact.
“This message underlines the importance of having various initiatives within this Organization to promote dialogue among cultures, religions and faiths as well as to strengthen mutual understanding,” he added.
The Assembly is set to convene a high-level dialogue on interreligious and intercultural cooperation later this week.
Also marking the occasion, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro today participated in a roundtable discussion, at which she said today’s violent and unsettled times “cry for Mahatma Gandhi’s healing touch.”
Gandhi’s philosophy guides much of the UN’s work for peace, she noted. “That is because all of us at the Organization realize that the UN’s efforts to end war must reach well beyond the mere absence of conflict. Peacekeepers and preventive diplomacy remain essential tools in our efforts to silence guns and implement ceasefires. But, by themselves, they are not enough to counter humanity’s worst instincts.
“Instead, the search for a durable and enduring peace demands action at a deeper, more profound level... In short, it requires a culture of Gandhian peace and non-violence,” she stated.