The grandson of Mahatma Gandhi says "moral strength" is needed in response to Tuesday's attack in Manhattan
FARMINGTON — For the grandson of peace activist and independence movement leader Mahatma Gandhi, news of Tuesday’s deadly attack in New York was disheartening, but not surprising.
It’s been less than a week since 83-year-old Rochester resident Arun Gandhi stood up at Farmington Friends Meeting (church) and urged Ontario County residents to become sowers of peace and nonviolence.
His message for America in response to Tuesday’s violence: Now is the time for moral strength, not just military might.
“After all, doesn’t the Bible say: ‘if you wish to live by the sword, be prepared to die by the sword,’” said Gandhi on Wednesday, taking to task America’s top leaders.
“When our words and actions so blatantly and clearly promote hate and prejudice, when we are quick to condemn what Muslims do as ‘terrorism’ and what our own people do as ‘the unfortunate work of a deranged mind,’ we show our bias,” he said.
“When we go and bomb their countries mercilessly and kill scores of thousands for the deranged actions of a few, what can we expect?” said Gandhi.
The world needs his grandfather’s lessons now, more than ever, he said.
“My grandfather would be sad at the depth of anger in the world today, but he would not despair,” he said. “All humanity is one family.”
Quoting one of Mahatma Gandhi’s many analogies, Arun said, “When we channel electricity intelligently, we can use it to improve our life. But if we abuse it, we could die. So as with electricity, we must learn to use anger wisely for the good of humanity.”
Will Bontrager, who helped organize the Saturday event in Farmington, said Gandhi’s presentation and book, “The Gift of Anger,” will continue to help him learn how to respond to “the anger that comes out of our current president.”
“How do we change our internal mechanisms?” he asked. “Do we respond in anger? Do we reach out to the part of God that is in him?”
Bontrager cited the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Arun Gandhi.
“How do they accomplish so much?” he asked. “They changed the course of history — but it wasn’t by using violence. There are important lessons to from them.”
Richmond Town Board member Steve Barnhoorn said it was an honor and blessing to have met “the peace farmer, Dr. Gandhi.”
“The stories were funny, insightful, and heartfelt,” said Barnhoorn. “Dr. Gandhi mentioned the value of introspection. His talk has caused me to reflect on my daily thoughts and actions. It also captured my heart.”
Gandhi urged residents to think about whether their words will help the world, or hurt it. And when they find the words that will do good, be prepared to speak them loudly.
“You are a peace farmer,” Gandhi recalls his parents and grandparents saying. “Just as a farmer goes out in the field and plants seeds and hopes that he gets a good crop, you can go out and plant seeds in the minds of people and pray that you will get a good crop.”
Now, at 83, he’s still planting seeds, and hopes people who hear him will nurture those seeds and become peace farmers themselves.
“There is a lot of work to be done to clean our hearts of hate and prejudice,” said Gandhi. “America is undoubtedly a superpower in military might; it needs to be a superpower in terms of its moral strength too. It needs to demonstrate to the world that it is prepared to do what is good for the world and not just what is good for the U.S.”
“An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind,” he added.