By Benedict Santosh S.J.,
NEW DELHI: On 2nd October when India celebrated Gandhi Jayanti, the birth of Mahatma Gandhiji and the world commemorated International Day of Non-Violence, in a small corner of New Delhi, a few intellectuals gathered together to assimilate further the noble ideals of Gandhiji. The event was facilitated by Indialogue Foundation and Islamic Studies Association.
Islamic Studies Association is a Catholic initiative engaging in dialogue between Islamic and Christian faith traditions. Indialogue Foundation is an action-oriented international organization for education, peace and development. It was founded in 2005 in New Delhi, by the imagination and fortune of a group of Turkish and Indian people inspired by sensible and spiritual thoughts of the eminent scholars and spiritual leaders of the world, to promote and to encourage international, intercultural and interfaith dialogue and cooperation. Through its initiatives Indialogue envisions to eliminate illiteracy, poverty and polarization which are prime causes of all social problems.Indialogue Foundation with its four offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata has organized several notable activities.
Several researchers and practitioners of dialogue assembled at the Indialogue office in Greater Kailash II, Delhi to exchange their views on what non-violent resistance meant to them. There were three major presentations leading to an open discussion among the participants. Mr. Rajat Malhotra of the Centre for Peace Spirituality presented on the Quranic vision of non-violent reconciliation, Fr. Tom Kunnunkal SJ, President, Islamic Studies Association, spoke on Biblical understanding of non-violence, while Fr. Victor Edwin SJ, also from Islamic Studies Association introduced the audience to the similarities between Gandhiji and Fethullah Gullen’s non-violent movement towards social justice and unity.
Mr. Rajat Malhotra, in his presentation emphasized on ‘Reconciliation’ as being a key ideal of Islam and in order to achieve this goal, individuals need to be unilaterally willing to engage in non-violent modes of reconciliation without expecting the counterpart to respond in any significant way. He said that in human relationships there are no enemies but only potential friends. In this regard, non-violent protest meant that sticking to the ideal in spite of the risk of having to suffer unceasingly, without ever seeing the conversion of the counterpart.
Fr. Tom Kunnunkal, while presenting the Biblical interpretation of non-violence said how Jesus epitomizes selfless sacrifice and personalizes the limits of non-violent struggle based on the values of unconditional love. He quoted Gandhi saying that if the whole world were to knock of a tooth for a tooth, then the whole world would be toothless, so too if they were to seek an eye for an eye, then the whole world would be blind. During the course of the presentation, he drew the analogy of the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, where the father is willing to unconditionally forgive his son, who had wronged him severely.
Fr. Victor Edwin spoke on the similarities between Gandhi’s and Fethullah Gülen’s approach. He spoke on Henri Bergsson’s notion of ‘Being and Becoming’ enshrined in the historical unfolding of these two person’s life. The two personalities were constantly evolving and their ideals took shape through their deeds and lives. He also spoke of how Gülen did not view enemies as people, rather he saw vices such as ignorance, poverty of the masses and disunity among the common people as being the enemies that humanity should fight against. He used education and culture as the means towards this end. Gandhi and Gülen both believe in the transformative power of truth and love. They tried to collaborate with the opponent in achieving common ends, all the while seeing to it that the means they used were as effective as the ends.
After the presentations, Mr Qamar Aga, an independent journalist gave his thoughts on the presentations made. After that the floor was open to the participants to engage in free discussions. The day’s event ended with a high tea and discussions continued during the same.