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March 25, 2017

What if he’d chosen to wage peace, not war?

ON the evening of January 30, 1948, a Hindu nationalist, Nathuram Godse, shot Mahatma Gandhi three times at point-blank range. Revered as the ‘Father of the Nation’, Gandhi was preparing to address a prayer meeting when Godse ended his extraordinary life. Having liberated India from the British empire without a single act of violence, the Mahatma, or ‘Great Soul’, was dispatched from this world by the very method he had spent his life denouncing. Gandhi was greatly influenced by Leo Tolstoy, whose ardent belief in the power of non-violent resistance touched him deeply. Indeed, Tolstoy’s last letter before he died in 1910, was to the Mahatma. Another of Gandhi’s correspondents was Albert Einstein who, following the murder of the Great Soul, wrote: ‘Gandhi had demonstrated that a powerful human following can be assembled…through the cogent example of a morally superior conduct of life.’ On the evening of April 4, 1968, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr was fatally shot by James Earl Ray, on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. King, whose non-violent civil rights movement was profoundly influenced by Gandhi, often referred to the Mahatma as ‘that little brown saint’. ‘Christ gave us the goals,’ he said, ‘and Mahatma Gandhi gave us the tactics’. Following Dr King’s assassination, President Lyndon Johnson declared seven days of national mourning. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed into law a federal holiday in his honour. All that because King had a dream that, one day, ‘little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as brothers and sisters’. What he said of Gandhi could be equally said of King himself: ‘He struggled only with the weapons of truth, soul force, noninjury and courage.’ On the morning of March 21, 2017, Ireland awoke to the news that former IRA commander turned peacemaker, Martin McGuinness, had died of a rare heart condition…Read more