About Us Speeches

Remarks by Ambassador Sibi George at the event ‘Remembering Mahatma Gandhi’ in Vatican, October 1, 2019

Posted on: October 01, 2019 | Back | Print

Remarks by Ambassador Sibi George at the event ‘Remembering Mahatma Gandhi’ in Vatican, October 1, 2019

Your Excellency President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Bishop Miguel Ayuso Guixot, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Morning.

Thank you for inviting me to this major event, when we celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in Vatican.

I stand here representing one of the oldest, largest and perhaps among the very few continuous major civilizations in the world. I bring to you greetings from 1.3 billion people of India, which is almost 1/6th of the total population of the world.

I am happy to stand here before you today representing India to pay homage to a person who is an embodiment of everything that India as an ancient civilisation and as a modern vibrant democracy stands for.

While flying in to Rome last night, flying over the snow laden Alps, to attend this event on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, I was thinking about the world during the period Mahatma Gandhi lived. It saw several wars including two World Wars. That period produced so many war heroes, so many who built empires and ruled them. But we don’t see any celebrations on their birth anniversary, whether it is hundred and fifty or more. But for over a year now, the whole world has been celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. His statues and busts are erected in almost all the countries in the world, postal stamps are issued by almost all countries. He is the father of a nation of 1.3 billion people, 1/6th of the population of the world, he is also respected and adored all over the world as a Mahatma, a Great Soul.

Let me share with you a story of ancient times that I heard many times. The story of Alexander the Macedonian, also called Alexander the Great. After having crossed Persia, he came to India, met a sage on the banks of the river Indus, who he referred to as a ‘wise man’. This sage sat on a rock and spent all day and night staring at the sky. Alexander asked him what he was doing. The sage replied, "Experiencing nothingness.” The sage asked Alexander what he was doing. Alexander replied, "I am conquering the world.” Both laughed. For Alexander, the sage was wasting his one and only life experiencing nothingness! For the sage, Alexander was wasting his time in violence trying to conquer a world that has no limits, with a sense of urgency that made no sense. It was a moment in ancient history when West and East met. The fact is that, the empire that Alexander built on violence and military power collapsed within a few years of his death. But Indian spirituality, its ethos, its values, continue to attract the world. For us Indians, Mahatma Gandhi is the embodiment of the values and ethos of India, and for the world he continues to be bridge connecting East and West.  

Last month, Hon’ble President of India during his State visit to Switzerland, unveiled a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Villeneuve on the banks of Lake of Geneva. There President of India said, and I quote “Mahatma Gandhi believed in the oneness of humanity. He embraced all cultures and all peoples. He listened to Hindu religious songs and western classical music with equal ease and understanding. In Villeneuve, Romain Rolland played Beethoven for him. They had long conversations on the Great War that had ravaged Europe and how peace could be secured for future generations.” Unquote.

India as a civilisation gave rise to ancient religions such as Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism and also Sikhism. In fact, India is home to other many religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. In fact, Christianity reached India and flourished there since 52 CE, in the first century immediately after the crucifixion of Christ, much before it reached most parts of Europe. We will be celebrating the 550th birth anniversary of Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of Sikh religion later this year.
In India, we speak several hundred languages, we worship different Gods, we eat different foods, we wear different clothes, but there is a feeling of oneness and common consciousness, a civilizational bond, that keeps us together, make us proud as India. Every diverse culture in India flourishes, every region in India flourishes. India has more Christians than the total population of many of the European countries. We have a constitution which guarantees liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; equality of status and of opportunity. For us, Mahatma Gandhi is an embodiment all that India represents, its tradition, its spirituality, its mantra of Vasudev Kudumbakam, world is one family.

Now from European and Indian history, let me take you to another continent, where Gandhi spend considerable time of his life. In eighteen hundred and ninety three, standing in front of thousands of Indian laborers in South Africa, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, a young lawyer from India said, “There are several causes for which I am ready to die for, but there are no causes for which I am ready to kill for.” This was a vow of non-violence in body, spirit and mind. It is with this weapon of non- violence Mahatma Gandhi, defeated the mightiest nation of the world.             

Non-violence is a philosophy evolved over several centuries in India. It is part of the conscience of Indian life and society. Non-violence is not a weapon for the weak. It is the weapon for the strong. It requires greater heroism than of the bravest soldiers. It is the expression of the deepest love for all humans including one’s enemies. It is not only the lack of the physical harm towards others. It also lacks hatred and ill will towards them.
Challenging the British Mahatma Gandhi said, “They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me, then they will have my dead body, not my obedience.” Non-violence is not running away from the challenges that we face. It is not running away from our responsibilities. It is facing these challenges with courage and discipline.
In a world dominated by violence and hatred, Mahatma Gandhi reincarnated the Indian concept of non-violence. His example influenced and inspired many later freedom struggles. He continues to inspire millions across the world. His catchwords, now or never, do or die continue to evoke fear in the minds of oppressors. His famous words, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” remains a guiding principle for humanity. It is in recognition of this contribution that, in 2007 the United Nations General Assembly unanimously, I repeat, unanimously adopted a resolution to observe October 2nd every year as the International Day of Non-violence.
I would like to conclude by quoting a Talisman that Mahatma Gandhi gave us. He said, I quote: “Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, try the following. Recall the face of the poorest and the most helpless man or woman whom you may have seen and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him/her. Will he be able to gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? Then you will find your doubts and yourself melting away.”
I once again thank for inviting me to this event.
Thank you very much.