Grandson of Gandhi to work with Peace Center
The Peace Center is excited to announce the addition of Arun Gandhi as an honorary board member. Gandhi is the 5th grandson of the iconic leader, Mohandas K. "Mahatma" Gandhi. Arun has made it his lifelong commitment to carry on his grandfather's legacy of peace and nonviolence throughout the world. Arun Gandhi with image of his grandfather.
By Christian Menno
If there is one name that is universally associated with peace and nonviolence, it is Gandhi.
So when the Peace Center in Langhorne announced it has named Arun Gandhi — the 78-year-old grandson of iconic civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi — as an honorary board member, all involved agreed that it was a perfect pairing.
“We are honored to have a person of his caliber to provide us with advice and wisdom — and in turn, his grandfather’s wisdom,” Kathleen Sweeney, the center’s associate director said Friday. “Arun last visited here in March and we look forward to seeing him again soon. We’re thrilled that he’s agreed to support us in our work.”
Gandhi, who has maintained an informal relationship with the non-profit organization for nearly 15 years, will volunteer his name and services to the Peace Center to help in a variety of areas, including fundraising and promotion of programs and events.
“I will help in whatever ways that I can,” he said during a recent phone interview from his home in Rochester, N.Y. “Working toward peace is essential today, with everything that is going on in the world.”
His name alone is surely enough to draw people’s attention and give further credibility to the Peace Center’s work, but Gandhi brings more to the table than simple name recognition.
Before his grandfather was assassinated in 1948, Arun Gandhi lived with him for two formative years as a young teenager in India. By that time, his grandfather was already world-renowned and recognized as the father of India’s independence from British rule.
“He would give me daily lessons,” Gandhi said, “and taught me some very important things about life. As I reflect back now, I realize he was teaching me the foundations of non-violent resistance.”
It wasn’t until he moved in with his legendary relative that Arun said he began to realize that he was much more than simply “Grandfather.”
“I started to see for myself how he was held in such high esteem by so many people,” he said. “I would look outside and see hundreds of people waiting just to get a glimpse of him. When you see that kind of adulation, you begin to realize what he meant to India.”
For any young person, growing up in the shadow of such a historic figure can be difficult and present some lofty expectations. It was no different for Arun.
“When I was a teenager, it was a little bit tough,” he said. “I remember telling my mother that I didn’t know how I was going to go through life with this legacy. I felt, even then, that it was becoming a burden.
“But she gave me some great advice. She told me: ‘It’s entirely up to you. If you consider it a burden, then it will become heavier and heavier. But if you consider it a light, it will continue to illuminate your life.’ So since then, I have looked at the legacy as a light and know that my parents and grandparents are always guiding me from heaven.”
Most of Gandhi’s time is spent running the Gandhi Institute for Non-Violence in Rochester and the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, based in Illinois.
Having lived in the United States for the last 25 years, Gandhi has many views on the state of the country. His take on the recent movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo. can be found on his blog at www.Gandhiforchildren.org.
“It was obviously a shocking tragedy,” he said over the phone last week. “I feel that it showed that it’s extremely important that we work hard toward bringing about a change in the attitude in order to bring about peace. Children seem totally desensitized to violence and they don’t understand its seriousness. We need to teach children how to deal with their anger in a constructive way.
“I can understand people wanting to own guns because they hunt, but what I don’t understand is why these assault rifles and sophisticated weapons used for war are available,” he added.
Gandhi said he will continue his work and try his best to represent his grandfather’s legacy in the hopes of bringing about further change.
Officials from the Peace Center said they plan to discuss their newest board member’s next visit soon.
Christian Menno: 215-269-5081 ;