Focusing on peace and ending the culture of violence, Arun Gandhi — grandson of Mahatma Gandhi — led a dialogue with Georgetown and American University students to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“Peace has always been the foremost hope in my lifetime. I would like to inspire all of you to continue working for peace,” Gandhi said at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.

For Gandhi, the image of two planes striking the World Trade Center marked a new and deeper level of violence in the world. But he stressed that the continuous War on Terror is not a solution.

“To avenge the deaths of some 3,000 people who died at the World Trade Center, we have sacrificed more than 7,000 of our young men and women,” Gandhi said. “It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

Gandhi developed his philosophy of peace while growing up in a volatile South Africa. Amid the oppressive system of apartheid, Gandhi was discriminated against by whites for being too black and by blacks for not being black enough. As a teenager, these formative childhood experiences traveled with a teenaged Gandhi to India, where for almost two years he was mentored by his grandfather.

“My grandfather used to tell us that every morning we should get up and make the resolution that, ‘Today I am going to be better than I was yesterday,'” he said.

In recalling his past, Gandhi also addressed the tension between Pakistan and his grandfather’s India. Gandhi related his firsthand experiences in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai bombing, conducted by a Pakistani terror group.

For Ghandi, the crux of the Indian-Pakistani relations, as well as the 9/11 attacks, rests in the divisiveness of religion.

“Humanity has learned enough from religion to hate, but not enough to love,” Gandhi said, quoting his grandfather on interfaith tension.

For Ghandi, religious practice, in its many forms, should lead one to truth and inner peace.

Gandhi stressed that the challenge to transcend issues of ethnicity and faith can be confronted on college campuses as well. He noted that the divisions within the student body can reflect the divisions of society at large.

“Why can’t we look at this as one human family and break down those prejudices and come together and learn from each other?” Gandhi said. “Education is not just what you read in textbooks and what the professors tell you in class. It’s what you learn from your own experiences.”

After taking part in the dialogue, students proceeded to the Washington Hebrew Congregation to participate in the seventh annual Unity Walk, a demonstration of plurality. The walk down Massachusetts Avenue stopped at a number of worship spaces and featured a Muslim call to prayer, meditation and the singing of “Amazing Grace,” as well as speeches from noted figures such as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

On a day marked with memories of violence, students such as Julie Ogonis (SFS ’14), reflected on the last 10 years.

“To go from being a little girl in fourth grade to being an undergraduate … and having the chance to make some sort of impact and affect some sort of change, that is the most important part of the dialogueto me.”

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *