“The essence of the Asian Soul is non-violence," writes Card Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC).
Speaking about Pope Francis' message for the 50th World Day of Peace,
which was held Monday, the cardinal notes that many icons of
non-violence can be found in Asia. In India, the figures of Mahatma
Gandhi and Mother Teresa stand out. The latter’s "unparalleled ministry is witness to the love of Christ which transcends the barriers of religion or culture”. Card Gracias’s message follows.
India welcomes with particular joy the Message of Non-violence—A
Style of Politics for Peace. The essence of the Asian Soul is
non-violence and we have present many Asians as icons of non-violence.
The Holy Father refers to icons of non-violence and peace like Mahatma
Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan** and Saint Mother Teresa
Pope Francis has made reference to Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our
nation who is regarded as the 'Apostle of Non-Violence'. Mahatmas, who
has become the strongest global symbol of non-violence in the 20th
century, was the apostle of non-violence, peace and harmony. He had an
inner strength and this, along with other virtues, helped him reach his
goals. He had a huge following because people of every faith, caste and
creed witnessed his spiritual strength, not to mention his political
It is urgent and essential that we return to non-violence and
ultimately back to the Message of Jesus. By his own admission, Mahatma
Gandhi said the Sermon on the Mount "went straight to my heart", adding
that "Christ's Sermon on the Mount fills me with bliss even today. Its
sweet verses have even today the power to quench my agony of soul."
Non-violence is not just the absence of violence; it is a spirit of
peace, a spirit of forgiveness, understanding, and tolerance, and all
the values will lead to and result in non-violence – these are the
essential Principles of the spirit of non-violence. The spirit of
non-violence is not just the end, but the means of creating a world
society where justice, peace, and human rights of even the most
marginalized are respected.
The Mahatma's message of non-violence is important today more than
ever, for India and the world. In today's India, some segments of
society have come under the sway of globalisation and are leading the
country away from the basic principles of peace, harmony, and mutual
co-existence for which Gandhi fought hard and upon which our beloved
nation was founded.
Pope Francis also made reference to another Indian, Saint Mother
Teresa as "a symbol, an icon of our times". Saint Mother Teresa's
unparalleled ministry is witness to the love of Christ which transcends
the barriers of religion or culture, and overpowers the differences of
language or region. Thus, by quenching the thirst of Christ, Saint
Mother Theresa inspires and challenges the global community to do
something for those on the peripheries and thus create a humane
Conflicts and difference of opinion will always be present, but it is
important to realise that non- violence also implies the presence of
justice which results in the presence of peace.
I am hopeful that this spirit of non-violence may create a
willingness to resolve conflicts through peaceful conflict resolution.
On the other hand, as nations across the world continue to grapple with
the threat of conflict, violence and terrorism, non-violence should not
be pushed to the margins or the fringes of conflicts in which people
have other means of resolving conflicts and other violent means of
achieving one’s end. So, while I would never give up hope, I am an aware
that this is a difficult process.
(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)
* Archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC)
** A Muslim political leader who advocated pacifism and non-violence, also known as the ‘Frontier Gandhi’.