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Statement: International Day of Non Violence (10 October)

Today, the international day of non-violence, we evoke the values of APARIGRAHA (non-possession) and SAMABHARA (equability).

Between 1915 and 1941, Mahatma Gandhi exchanged beautiful and instense letters with the Indian poet and philosopher Rabindranth Tagore. This is not merely an exchange of letters, but an intimate and deep dialogue, a real dialogue, where mutual respect built the ethical and political basis to make possible to agree, even when they disagree on many positions.

Gandhi and Tagore revered one another. It was tagore who confered on Gandhi the title of Mahatma—“The Great Soul in beggar’s garb,” Tagore said. Gandhi called Tagore “The Great Sentinel” and “The Poet.”

In their letters, they discussed very different paths for that emancipation that would put an end to one of the largest experiences of British colonialism. For Gandhi, that freedom was going to be achieved through the creation of India, a nation founded on the ancestral shared values of the Indian people, a return to an original past disrupted for centuries of colonial rule. For Tagore, the path was quite the opposite: The liberation from that past and the engagement in an internationalism of one-single world, with no borders and no political or economic barriers.

From today’s vantage, is easy to see in their correspondence the seeds of the debates for the twenty first century between nationalism and globalization.

What Gandhi tried to explain to Tagore in the decades leading to the pacific struggle for liberation was his need as a leader to free and to protect his people. For nationalism offered not only liberation from the colonial past. To millions, it offered also a shelter against the invisible forces that ravaged their land, destroy their villages, took their language. It offered the memory of the undisturbed world of the distaff and the cows and the green valley and the tightly-knitted community and the direct contact and the shared values and the confluence.
Romanticized as it might sound, the nationalistic narrative embraced by Gandhi was more than delusion. For in the name of the nation people go to war and kill each other. But it is also in the name of the nation that people also demand better salaries, march for their freedom, claim for their rights. It is also in the name of belonging to a nation that people, in India and elsewhere, advocate for new rules and egalitarian treatment, and demand the authorities to defend their human integrity and dignity.

It was out of these nations created by the Gandhis of the world that this institution where we are  today was created, as a community of nations, local nations with universal mandates.

Dear Friends,
An Argentine writer says that letters are the utopian form of the conversation: To write a letter is to send a message to the future.

Where do we stand today, when 900 million people suffer of hunger?

How can we break today’s cinicism of deciding that “war against war” is the best way to achieve piece?

How are we to imagine and realize the universalization of freedom, dignity and peace?

Perhaps, if we hear once again at the poet and the mahatma, we could find, along with these roses, the roads to walk together towards a better future for all.

We are Tagore and Gandhi’s future. What reaches us from those letters is not only the echoes of the past, the tale emergence of one of the largest nations on earth; it is also the possibility of conversation and understanding, it is the empathy with the ideas we don’t share and the engagement in imagininig something better. Mahatma and Gurudev, The Great Soul and The Venerable Teacher, as they baptized each other—The beauty of their existence was how, against all odds, these two thinkers and leaders and activists could confront each other in search of a common ground without losing their friendship, how their intellectual understanding was built upon their political differences. It was their very exchange of ideas what rebuffs Tagore’s darkest nightmares about ideologies turned into fanatism.

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