Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson spoke in Abilene early this week regarding the value of a peaceful and nonviolent culture.
Dr. Arun Gandhi visited Abilene as a guest of the Abilene Interfaith Council. He presented as the council’s featured speaker at First Baptist Church on Monday and at Hardin-Simmons University on Tuesday.
Gandhi’s speech, titled ‘What I Learned from Grandfather about Peacemaking,’ centered around moving away from a society enthralled with violence toward one completely absent of it.
Gandhi moved from South Africa to India at the age of 14 to spend more than 18 months with his grandfather, he said. During that time, he learned much of what now shapes his views on nonviolence.
“He influenced me very substantially during the almost two years that I lived with him,” Gandhi said.
Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated weeks after Arun Gandhi returned to South Africa.
Becca Kello, president of the Abilene Interfaith Council, said she was thrilled the organization had the opportunity to host Gandhi.
“With bringing Dr. Gandhi, one of our board members has a relationship with him through the World Council of Religions,” said Kello, an ACU graduate student. “We were looking for something to get our Interfaith Council name out there. We’ve been around for a while, but we needed to put our name back out there.”
Guests nearly filled First Baptist Church to capacity for Gandhi’s first session Monday evening. Attendees included city officials, religious leaders from multiple associations within Abilene and students from high schools and universities in the area.
Caren Monsees, senior physical therapy major from Denver, attended the event. Monsees said she was impressed with the AIC’s boldness in bringing Gandhi to Abilene.
“He said some incredibly challenging things I definitely haven’t heard anyone else in Abilene speak about,” she said. “It’s important for everyone to expose themselves to thoughts outside their own. He made some people feel uncomfortable; I was moved by his consistency and passion for the nonviolence pathway of life.”
A question and answer period followed Gandhi’s speech in which audience members presented questions to the peace activist.
Kello said she believes Gandhi’s message was an appropriate one given current happenings in the world.
“At this time in our world and in our nation and even in Abilene, that message of peacemaking is really vital,” Kello said. “It’s been a pleasure to have him.”