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Mahatma Gandhi Anniversary Celebration

November 2007
Mahatma Gandhi Anniversary Celebration

The Gandhi Foundation USA (GFUSA), in cooperation with the King Center, celebrated 138th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, honoring his legacy at the MLK Jr. National Historic site and Freedom Hall, on October 5th. The gathering recognized the historic and unique U.N. Proclamation of October 2nd as the International Day of Non-Violence. The momentous celebration was attended by a diverse cross-section of communities in Georgia, leading community activists and representatives of Georgia organizations, and graced by the presence of the Honorable Ronen Sen, ambassador of India to the U.S.

Chairman of GFUSA, Subash Razdan, recognized his Excellency, Ambassador Sen, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagawati of Kashi Foundation; Radhakrishnan, President of The National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA); Steve Hollingworth, COO of CARE Foundation; Rev. Albert E. Love, representing the National President; and Charles Steele Jr., CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Dr. Jaimini Dave and Madhavi Dave, with musicians Praful Desai and Kirit Gandhi led the gathering in singing ‘Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram.' Ambassador Sen was joined by the distinguished guests at the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, where the ceremonial lamp���was lit and the statue was garlanded amidst thundering ovation. Ambassador Sen and Ma then led the gathering in a symbolic Peace March from the Statue to Freedom Hall in the King Center.

Razdan thanked President and CEO of King Center for re-opening the doors of Freedom Hall for the Gandhi Foundation. Dr. Shivadas recited the Shanti Mantra, ‘Om Sahnavavatu,' and then rendered the song ‘Let there be peace on Earth.' Bianca Fabre, a senior High School student, performed an elegant ballet dance. This was followed by a scintillating dance by Samta Savla to ‘Vaishnava janato,' beautifully sung by her father Sandeep Savla, accompanied by Chintan Dave on the drums and directed by Kumud Savla.

GFUSA has traditionally encouraged diverse young generation to learn about Gandhi and his philosophy. It was heartening to listen to Gandhi quotes by students. Husain Bharmal, a 3rd year medical student quoted, "Non-violence and cowardice are contradictory terms. Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. Non-violence springs from love, cowardice from hate. Non-violence always suffers, cowardice would always inflict suffering. Perfect non-violence is the highest bravery. Non-violent conduct is never demoralizing, cowardice always is."

Ms. Betsy Rivard, President of United Nations Association-USA, Atlanta Chapter, gave a brief perspective to the UN Declaration of Non-Violence Day. She said that Anand Sharma, India's Minister of State for External Affairs, had said in the UN that the wide co-sponsorship of the draft resolution in the UN reflected the universal respect that Mahatma Gandhi commanded.

Ambassador Sen in his keynote address said that Gandhi's 138th Birthday celebrations were special because of 60th anniversary of India's independence. The Gandhi Foundation has been very selective about bestowing its prestigious Humanitarian awards annually to the most deserving. This year, the Humanitarian Awards went to CARE USA and Ma Jaya Sati Bhagawati of Kashi Foundation.���

Receiving the Humanitarian Award on behalf of CARE was Steve Hollingworth. CARE, an Atlanta-based international humanitarian organization, was honored for its many year's of service to the poorest communities in the world. Ma of the Kashi Foundation was awarded or her selfless service to humanity. Accepting the award, Ma said, "Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King's spirits have touched my heart my whole life and there are no words that can ever express my love and admiration for them." She explained that the underlying teachings of Kashi Foundation were based on service and love.

An exuberant Giriraj Rao thanked Isaac Farris, CEO of King Center, for opening the doors of Freedom Hall for GFUSA. He said, "Gandhi's challenge ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world' is taking root and we can optimistically hope for humanity to respect non-violence and universal peace." The Indian American community left Freedom Hall convinced the torch of Gandhi and King continues to burn stronger than ever.

~Mahadev Desai

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