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We must be the change we wish to see in the world.

by Jeff Trussell

In the early 1600s, sailors from Great Britain made their way to India. At that time, India was a country rich in traditions and culture thousands of years old. The British Empire took control of the government of India and forever changed the face of that country. Ancient traditions and religions were thrown out, made illegal by ruthless British generals eager to make India another England. As you can well imagine, the native people of India suffered greatly, seeing their way of life trampled under the British desire to "civilize" their country.

For the longest time, nobody in India successfully fought back against the British and the oppression they brought with them. This all changed when a small man, born in the ancient city of Porbandar in 1869, stood up and said "Enough!" This man became known the world over as Gandhi, the mahatma or "Great Soul" of India.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi's early years showed little sign of the great life he would go on to live. He went to school, was married and later became a rather unsuccessful, terribly shy lawyer. All of this changed, however, one fateful day when Gandhi was denied a seat on a stagecoach in South Africa. The racist driver had made him sit outside in the hot sun on a long trip to Pretoria, simply because he wasn't white. Gandhi, until now too shy to even speak in front of a judge, sued the railroad company and won. From that point on, Gandhi became the number-one spokesman for all powerless non-whites the world over.

After 20 years of aiding his fellow Indians in South Africa, Gandhi returned to India and picked up the fight against British oppression. Instead of encouraging native born Indians to take up arms and force the British colonists out of their country, Gandhi created a policy of non-violent protest. "Non-violence, " he said, "is a weapon for the brave."

For 20 years, non-violent protests, marches and strikes by the Indians wore down British resistance. Confronted by a slight man wearing only a plain cloth and accompanied by millions of followers armed not with weapons but love and truth, the British government in 1946 finally gave India its long-held dream of independence. The fight for India's freedom had been won without a battle having ever been fought.

Sadly, two years after his great victory, Gandhi was shot and killed by an assassin's bullet. But Gandhi's legacy lived on after his death, showing the world that one can be a hero and accomplish great things without guns or swords or hatred. As Gandhi once said, "It is non-violence only when we love those that hate us. I know how difficult it is to follow this grand law of love, but are not all great and good things difficult to do? Love of the hater is the most difficult of all. But by the grace of God even this most difficult thing becomes easy to accomplish if we want to."

Written by Jeff Trussell
Photos courtesy of University of Maryland Baltimore County
Last changed on: 7/11/2015 4:17:32 PM

M.K. Gandhi Institute For Nonviolence is a nonprofit that works to realize the vision of its historic namesake by helping individuals and communities create public awareness of nonviolence as knowledge critical to human thriving.

Gandhi Peace Foundation seeks to create an environment for study and research on the teaching and practice of Gandhiji

GandhiServe Foundation - Mahatma Gandhi Research and Media Service aims to spread the ethics of nonviolence by disseminating information about and popularizing Mahatma Gandhi’s life and works.

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