11 September 2011: Seventh Annual Unity Walk, Washington, DC" . . . a day of walking and praying and giving peace and being peace"--Rev. Clark Lobenstine
On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the theme of this year's Unity Walk was "from Different Walks, we serve as one." Emulating Gandhi's marches, each year a large group of people representing a variety of religious backgrounds march from the Washington Hebrew Congregation down Massachusetts Avenue by way of several different places of worship open for the occasion, to the Indian embassy near Dupont Circle. Across the street from it is an island where a bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi stands overlooking a small bank of grass.
Harun Gandhi leads the walk and addresses the group standing beneath his grandfather's statue every year.
This year he drew on different strands of the eighteen months he spent with his grandfather when he was in his early teens.
One disclaimer he asserted at the beginning: he has never aspired to become a mahatma. But the time he spent with the elder Gandhi has defined his mission and values.
"What is peace?" he asked us.
"Is it the absence of war, or more?"
His grandfather told him it consisted of harmony, compassion, love, and respect. And before we can live peace, we must understand violence.
He said that his grandfather obliged him to analyze his every violent act each day and put it on a tree on his bedroom wall. There were two aspects to consider: active and passive. Active violence consists of agressive acts of assault; passive violence consists of mental abuse such as racial or religious discrimination.
The younger Gandhi said that he filled up the wall with acts of passive violence. What happens is that passive violence provokes active retaliation, fueling physical, that is, active violence.
"We must become the change we want in the world," said Mahatma Gandhi.
We must find peace within ourselves and then help others achieve it.
He challenged the group of more than 1000 to become peacemakers for the rest of the year.
He told a parable of an ancient Indian king who wanted to know the meaning of peace. He assembled all of the intellectuals in his land, but none could give him a satisfactory answer. An intellectual from a neighboring country happened to visit and the king asked him what peace was.
The man directed him to an ancient sage too old to come to the king's court.
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