Arun Gandhi & Host Molly Rowan Leach: Understanding Nonviolence

Interview from Justice Week During the Shift Network's Summer of Peace, 2012, Hosted by Molly Rowan Leach.

Arun Gandhi was born in 1934 in Durban, South Africa. Arun is the fifth grandson of India’s legendary leader, Mohandas K. “Mahatma” Gandhi. Growing up under the discriminatory apartheid laws of South Africa, he was beaten by “white” South Africans for being too black and “black” South Africans for being too white; so, Arun sought eye-for-an-eye justice. However, he learned from his parents and grandparents that justice does not mean revenge, it means transforming the opponent through love and suffering.

Grandfather taught Arun to understand nonviolence through understanding violence. “If we know how much passive violence we perpetrate against one another we will understand why there is so much physical violence plaguing societies and the world,” Gandhi said. Through daily lessons, Arun says, he learned about violence and about anger.

Arun shares these lessons all around the world. For the past five years, he has participated in the Renaissance Weekend deliberations with President Clinton and other well-respected Rhodes Scholars. In recent years his engagements included speaking at the Chicago Children’s Museum and the Women’s Justice Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He also delivered talks at the Young President’s Organization in Mexico, the Trade Union Leaders’ Meeting in Milan, Italy, as well as the Peace and Justice Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Sometimes, his journeys take him even further. Arun has spoken in Croatia, France, Ireland, Holland, Lithuania, Nicaragua, China, Scotland and Japan. Also, he is a very popular speaker on college campuses and in recent years, he has spoken at, North Dakota State University, Concordia College, Baker University, Morehouse College, Marquette University, and the University of San Diego, to name a few.

Arun is very involved in social programs and writing, as well. Shortly after Arun married his wife Sunanda, they were informed the South African government would not allow her to accompany him there. Sunanda and Arun decided to live in India, and Arun worked for 30 years as a journalist for The Times of India.

Arun and his late wife, Sunanda, rescued over 125 orphan children from the streets and placed them in loving homes around the world and began a Center for Social Change, which transformed the lives of millions in villages in the western state of Maharashtra. Together, Arun and Sunanda started projects for the social and economic uplifting of the oppressed using constructive programs, the backbone of Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence.

The programs changed the lives of more than half a million people in over 300 villages and they still continue to grow.

In 1987 Sunanda and Arun came to the US and in 1991 they started the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at the Christian Brothers University in Memphis Tennessee. In 2008 the Institute was moved to the University of Rochester, New York. In the 17 years of the Institute’s life the Gandhi’s took the message of nonviolence and peace to hundreds of thousands of high school and University youth around the US and much of the Western World.

In 1997, Sunanda and Arun began the Gandhi Legacy Tour of India, in 2012 Arun expanded the business and developed two additional tour itineraries, the Gandhi Lifescapes Tour of India and Gandhi Satyagraha Tour of South Africa.

Sunanda died in February of 2007 and the family is working to establish a residential-school in poorest rural India in her honor. Arun founded the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute in 2008 headquartered in a suburb outside of Chicago, ILL. The Institute was founded to promote community building in economically depressed areas of the world through the joining of Gandhian philosophy and vocational education for children and their parents.

Arun is the author of several books. The first, A Patch of White (1949), is about life in prejudiced South Africa; then, he wrote two books on poverty and politics in India; followed by a compilation of M.K. Gandhi’s Wit & Wisdom. He also edited a book of essays on World Without Violence: Can Gandhi’s Vision Become Reality? And, more recently, wrote The Forgotten Woman: The Untold Story of Kastur, the Wife of Mahatma Gandhi, jointly with his late wife Sunanda and his bestseller Legacy of Love: My education in the path of nonviolence. In March of 2014 Grandfather Gandhi was released.  A picture book for all ages by Arun Gandhi, Bethany Hegedus illustrated by Evan Turk.

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