Left Justified: Happy birthday, Mahatma Gandhi!

Thursday, Oct. 2 is the birthday of my favorite peace activist, Mahatma Gandhi. Much has been said about this skinny little Indian poet, philosopher, prophet and peace patriot. Everybody knows that our own Dr. Martin Luther King Jr used many Gandhian tactics to win civil rights concessions in the ’50s and ’60s. But did you know that he stole a lot of his good ideas from our own Henry David Thoreau, the American writer of the early 1800s? Gandhi is still a prime example of the power of nonviolent direct action against injustice and evil. So let’s celebrate, especially with the Hindu community on Saturday, Oct. 4, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Rock Valley College’s Performing Arts room. I’ve been to their party before, and let me tell you, it’s delicious! I mean, the food is delicious. The prayers, poems, short film and panel discussion are enlightening, but afterward, they share Indian hors d’oeuvres that make my mouth water. It’s open to the public, and free. Sometimes there are more Indians there than anyone else, so come and enjoy! Not only did Gandhi teach the philosophy of nonviolence and try to explain how to stop injustice by using the force of love; he put his beliefs into practice. When his followers used violence against British troops that were shooting unarmed protesters, Gandhi went on a fast and called off the strikes. He was not going to use violence against the enemy. He knew that anger begets anger and that a victory won through love will stay won for a longer time. The world has much to gain by studying Gandhian beliefs. Our own President Bush should sit down with a good peace teacher. Maybe he wouldn’t be so quick to send our troops off to war. Of course, Rockford Peace & Justice Action Committee is celebrating Gandhi’s birthday with a special film. The award-winning documentary A Child’s Century of War will be shown for the first time in Rockford on Monday, Oct. 6, at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockford, 4848 Turner St., four blocks north and east of Alpine and State. The film is free. This documentary is chilling because it follows the children from Sierra Leone, Hebron (the West Bank of the occupied territories of Israel) and of Chechnya. Children are not only victims in these wars, but are sometimes targeted. They may be kidnapped and forced to carry a gun. Sometimes kids are tortured and killed to get the parents to follow along. Either way, war should be abolished just for what it does to the youth. And finally, Rockford Urban Ministries, whom I work for, along with other nonprofits, will host a special vegan (no animal byproducts) benefit dinner on Wednesday, Oct. 15 at the India House, 6430 E. Riverside Blvd., Loves Park, from 5 until 8 p.m. It will be served buffet style so you can arrive anytime. Pay $15, but reservations are requested so that we have enough food. Call 964-7111. Gandhi deserves to be remembered. His philosophy and tactics should be studied by all who want to truly bring peace and justice to the world. Have yourself a peaceful Gandhian birthday. Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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