37: Ela Gandhi

37: Ela Gandhi

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 37 •

Granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi; former member, Parliament of South Africa; trustee, Gandhi Development Trust; Honorary President, Religions for Peace

In recent years in South Africa I have followed some of the sermons presented by Reverend Graham and have seen the influence he has had on thousands of people. In a world where there is so much self-centeredness, breakdown of moral fiber, and violence, the Word of God is certainly an important vehicle for mobilizing people. It is equally important for people to move away from ritualistic, superstitious beliefs to values that determine the future of our lives.

Those who are able, through their own personal charisma as well as their faith, to mobilize masses of people need to very firmly and decisively communicate the message of our scriptures — that of love, compassion and of oneness of humanity and the universe, of the task assigned to us as humanity to care and labor so that the world can prosper in peace and harmony, as has been preached by Reverend Billy Graham.

Religious leaders, as Reverend Graham has pointed out correctly, need to set an example by respecting diversity without compromising on basic principles of love and caring. There is no place in our scriptures for hatred, violence, abuse of any kind or exploitation.

Coming from a different faith background, I believe strongly that faith communities are united in their belief in universal values. These values are the threads that bind us. I was honored to receive the Community of Christ International Peace Award, which likewise honors these values, and like my grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi, I believe that whatever different scriptures we may adhere to, whatever our beliefs in the process of birth, death and the hereafter may be, we adhere to the same basic values. That should be the uniting force. We, as religious leaders, have a responsibility to respect the rights of others to their scriptures and their beliefs. We must respect the right to differ. It is only when we can truly encourage this respect for diversity that we can lead our world towards peace and harmony.

Many wars have been fought in the name of religion. In hindsight all our leaders have condemned these wars. But there are some among us who continue to sow divisions. That has to stop because the world is diverse, society is diverse, scriptures and beliefs are many, and this will remain so because that is how we are created and that is the nature of humanity. We think differently and therefore we are different. Yet we have much in common that binds us and it is that commonality that we need to emphasize and loudly and clearly articulate for our world to change its course.

Reverend Graham has the power and the charisma to change the world for a better more tolerant world. May his followers continue to preach the message of peace, tolerance, compassion, caring and respect for all life.

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