historian | journalist | peacebuilder

Rajmohan Gandhi in Switzerland: ‘Non-Violent Resistance is as relevant as ever!’

Rajmohan Gandhi, president of Initiatives of Change International, spoke at a public lecture at the University of Geneva on Wednesday 25 November 2009, on the theme ‘The message of Mahatma Gandhi and Asia today’. The lecture was co-organized by the Dpartment of Geography/Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences of the University of Geneva, along with the Geneva International Peace Research Institute (GIPRI), the Geneva interfaith platform, GRETA and IofC. Angelo Barampama wo lectures at the University, welcomed the participants. 

The day before, he had been officially introduced as the new President of Initiatives of Change International by his predecessors Cornelio Sommaruga and Mohamed Sahnoun at a diplomatic reception for ‘international Geneva’.

The message of Mahatma Gandhi and Asia today: There is probably no better person in the world to speak about this theme than Rajmohan Gandhi, Research Professor at the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Illinois and author of an award-winning biography of his grandfather, the Mahatma (‘Gandhi: The Man, His People and the Empire).

About 200 people came to hear Gandhi being interviewed by Andrew Stallybrass, Director of the publishing house ‘Caux Books’, on Wednesday evening at the University of Geneva. Before getting into the current problems of Asia and the world, Gandhi tried to give an intimate picture of the life and the message of his grandfather, the Mahatma. According to the grandson, the Mahatma had learnt about the power of violence-free resistance in part from his wife, who not always agreed with him in the early years of his struggle.

The Mahatma was able in an incomparable way to build friendships, to win people for his cause and to build up a movement, Rajmohan said. And he continued: ‘Gandhi was born into a conservative, high-class Hindu family. It is astonishing how he managed to get over the traditional reservations of people from this class, how he got in contact with the poorest people in India and how he managed to win them for his cause.’

Asked about the relevance of the Mahatma’s message for today, he replied: ‘Still today there is lots of injustice in the world. Gandhi spread the message of violence-free resistance and this message is still relevant today. Violence-free resistance may take long to reach its goal, but one thing is for sure: Violence will never lead to success.’

A Christian, a Muslim, and a Hindu

Gandhi emphasized the crucial role of Asia in the world of today and tomorrow. India, Pakistan and China with their immense population have to find new ways to understanding and development. This has to be done without violence – terrorist acts will only bring damage, he said. His answer to a question from the audience about his view of the situation in Tibet was one with much appreciation for the work of the Dalai Lama: ‘It is astonishing how patient he is. He is even downscaling his claims. Nowadays he only wants to have an autonomous status for Tibet within China. China could win a lot if it decided to work together with the Dalai Lama.’

The day before, Rajmohan Gandhi was officially introduced as the new President of Initiatives of Change International by his predecessors Cornelio Sommaruga and Mohamed Sahnoun, at an event with about 80 diplomats and other representatives of the international community in Geneva. Sommaruga proudly emphasized that Initiatives of Change International was lucky to first have a Christian, then a Muslim and now a Hindu as President.