Today we celebrate the birthday of a man who helped bring forward the notion of “non-violence,” and the tremendous impact this form of social response has had all over the world in the last century. On the International Day of Non-Violence, created by the United Nations in 2007, we look back on the influence of Indian activist Mahatma Gandhi, and how non-violent protest has evolved over the years. The UN has good reason to use the birthday of Gandhi to celebrate International Day of Non-Violence. Gandhi’s commitment to India’s independence and his methods have been the cornerstone of civil and human rights initiatives all over the world. Put simply, Gandhi saw it as completely irrational to use violence to achieve peace, but rather, “just means lead to just ends.” This is a lesson we can all take to heart.
How to Observe International Day of Non-Violence
1. Read up on Gandhi
Gandhi was one of the world’s greatest and most influential leaders in the last century, and there’s plenty we can learn from him. Below are a few of his most beloved quotes. • “There are many causes I would die for. There is not a single cause I would kill for.” • “Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.” • “And eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”
2. Find or organize an event
The UN hosts official events around the world to commemorate the resolution of 2007, but there are also innumerable events on Gandhi’s birthday dedicated to celebrating the life of the leader. Or, if there is a particular issue close to your heart, use this day as an opportunity to take non-violent action to make your voice heard.
3. Go for a Random Act of Kindness
The concept of Random Acts of Kindness has taken off with the rise of social media, as the beneficiaries of RAKs often post their gratitude for the stranger online. Today, make Gandhi proud by going out of your way for a stranger, simply to brighten their day. Pay the toll for the person in the car behind you, leave a positive note with a friend, clean the snow off a stranger’s windshield - the possibilities are endless. So today, in the words of Gandhi, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Why International Day of Non-Violence is Important
A. It raises awareness
The term non-violence has been used so often in the last century that its meaning has taken on new forms. Often believed to be a synonym for pacifism, which it can be, it’s also been adopted by groups around the world to be a force for social change, rather than strictly opposition to war. Through education and awareness, the UN hopes to share the many forms of non-violence that we have today.
B. Non-violence is a proven method for social change
The term non-violence is a broad umbrella under which there are several categories. Non-violent actions include protests, marches and vigils, which were successfully employed in the 1960s to bring about social changes in America. Non-cooperation and non-violent intervention, such as blockades and sit-ins, were also used, and have been seen more recently in America to demonstrate further inequalities. All of these led to the peaceful spread of ideas.
C. There are plenty of conflicts to solve
Globalization has given us a more productive global economy, but it’s also led to even more issues that need solving. To help keep these from escalating to violence, spreading the ideas — and success stories — of nonviolence will be crucial.