Gandhi's peace efforts recognized
McMaster’s Peace Week began with the unveiling of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi on Oct. 3 outside the McMaster University Student Centre. Patrick Deane, President and Vice-Chancellor of McMaster, and Preeti Saran, Consul General of India in Toronto, were present at the event.
The statue, donated by the Government of India, will reside permanently in Mills Memorial Library, promoting efforts to spread Gandhi’s legacy of peace.
McMaster’s Peace Week is part of the Annual Gandhi Peace Festival and Peace Walk, which celebrated its 19th year on Saturday, Oct. 1.
“The statue will serve as a constant reminder that honesty, integrity and hard work will pay off in more ways than one,” said Dr. Rama Singh, a professor of Biology and Peace Studies and Chair of the Peace Festival. “It will help build character.”
Prior to the unveiling, Deane echoed some of Gandhi’s words, and expressed how this representation of Gandhi is symbolic of the views that McMaster upholds with respect to education. “This underlines the importance of Gandhi, not only as an historical figure, but as a symbolic representation of him at the heart of our campus, because of course, Gandhi’s values must be our values as an institution that seeks to shape and form a desirable society for us all in the future.”
McMaster has, in recent years, begun expanding its reputation globally with numerous partnerships and has strengthened relationships with institutions around the world, most notably in India. Deane reflected on the recent Research and Development Forum at McMaster, which featured leaders from high-ranking institutions around India.
“We’re in the process of building our relationships with Indian universities, and most recently at our successful Research and Development Forum we met with and planned to cooperate with deans from five or six top Indian institutions.”
Deane further explained, “it is important on an occasion like this to reflect on some of the details on our relationship with India, as an institution,” crediting initiatives of McMaster’s Centre for Peace Studies, as well as research relationships with several India schools.
This year continues the tradition of uniting prominent speakers under the same pressing subject of peace. The Annual Mahatma Gandhi Lectures on Nonviolence were established by the India-Canada Society of Hamilton, with sponsorship from McMaster’s Center for Peace Studies. Among notable guests of the week were Princeton University’s Professor Richard Falk, Distinguished Emeritus Professor of International Law. He delivered the annual Gandhi Lecture on Nonviolence on Oct. 3, discussing nonviolent geopolitics and their necessity in today’s world.
Echoing the 2011 Festival theme of “No to Fear – Yes to Peace” on Oct.4, Professor Hilal Elver, Visiting Fullbright Professor at McGill University, spoke about “Reflections on Islamophobia in North America”.
The lectures and events held throughout the week aim to serve as ways to remember Gandhi and to follow his principles in a time of global unrest and turmoil. “Educational institutions around the world are rediscovering Gandhi and his philosophy of peace, nonviolence and communal harmony,” said Singh. “Through honouring Gandhi, McMaster shows its commitment to students’ development and their future readiness for local, national and international engagement in making a better world for us all.”
The Peace Festival aspires to promote nonviolence, peace and justice while providing an avenue for various peace and human rights organizations within the local community to become collectively visible. Following the theme of exchanging dialogues and resources, Singh also hoped that “students become energized by seeing the statue and that Mills Library, which also houses Bertrand Russell’s papers, will become an educational pilgrimage for students and visitors.”
Peace Week continues until Oct.7 and will feature numerous events, including live music during lunch, evening workshops and a candlelight vigil to stop violence against women.
In politically and economically tumultuous times, Singh shared what he felt was Gandhi’s most relevant teaching for McMaster students: “Understand your enemy’s position to help make your enemy your friend.”
Education and the quest for knowledge were held in high esteem for Gandhi throughout his life and journey. Being an academic himself, he recognized the importance of education and imparted that wisdom to his followers as he led India to independence.