Archive | 3. Annual Lecture RSS feed for this archive

What Would a Gandhian Business Model Look Like?

The Gandhi Foundation Annual Lecture 2013 was given by Rt Hon Vince Cable MP. photo courtesy of Prem Prakash & Twisha Chandra

The Gandhi Foundation Annual Lecture 2013 was given by
Rt Hon Vince Cable MP
photo courtesy of Prem Prakash & Twisha Chandra

The Rt Hon Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills delivered the Gandhi Foundation Annual Lecture in October 2013. The title of his lecture was What Would a Gandhian Business Model Look Like? You can read the full speech by clicking here.

You can read a review by Robert Fisher and analysis by Antony Copley below.

What Would a Gandhian Business Model Look Like?
By Robert Fisher

At the recent Gandhi Foundation Annual Lecture, The Rt Hon Vince Cable MP spoke of Mahatma Gandhi as one of the three great 20th century political activists who along with Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King brought to the consciousness of humanity some of the injustices that human kind has heaped upon his fellow man/woman.

At the same time reminding us of three 20th Century tyrants who had brought humanity to the depths of evil and despair, Hitler, Stalin and Mao Zedong who collectively killed millions in their attempts to control the destinies of many with their ill conceived ideological objectives.

And of the legacies of these six individuals, exemplified by the election of Barack Obama as the president of the United States of America, the emergence of India and China as two of the great economic powers in the world and of the recent joint American and Russian intervention in Syria in bringing about the destruction of its chemical weapons.

The legacies of Hitler, Stalin and Mao Zedong are not forgotten, there are still many within global society who would kill with impunity anyone questioning their authority or ideological beliefs.

Whilst Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela have undoubtedly helped to reduce the incidents of institutional racism and colonialism, sexism, ageism, classism etc. still exist and as was stated by Dr Cable, nonviolent direct action by all, wherever these incidents occur, will eventually bring these prejudices and injustices to an end.

It is noted that Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Gandhi were all individuals who fought against their political systems at the time to achieve their moral objectives.

The world of commerce and industry, based on mutual self interest has steadily moved on, perhaps providing some insight as to the way in which finding ways of working together can be more important than seeking to impose one ideological view over another. Politicians around the world will be aware of the impact the Internet has had on the political landscape.

Dr Cable spoke of globalisation, of economics and of ethics and of cultural and subsequent ethical conflicts between those who are the wealth creators in society and some who retain it to create even more money and of the differences between great wealth and deep poverty, inequalities and injustices in society.

Within the bandwidth of ethics that allows for freedom of thought and deed, I believe different and deeper truths and cultural values will emerge as nations converge and collective society moves forward in what I imagine Gandhi’s definition of Sarvodaya to be.

Globalisation, in this digital age, brings with it the hopes and aspirations of many and the potential for all cultures and nation states to collaborate in trying to address the many challenges that face humanity and earth’s subsystems, and the many opportunities in so doing.

Just under 40 years ago the combined intellectual capacity of only a few motivated individuals addressed the challenge of taking humanity to the moon and back.

It is entirely plausible that the combined intellectual capacity of humanity, connected, motivated and focused on addressing the many challenges we undoubtedly will face as we all move forward in eliminating extremes of poverty and injustice in society and the degradation of the natural world will be achieved. Gandhi and those like him have shown the many what only a few can achieve.

True economics, articulated by Vince Cable as social justice, equality and the good of all is not only aspirational it is logical and demonstrable through the concept of mutual self interest.

Whatever our views of capitalism are, laissez-faire or some other form of capitalism, we are part of global economic community and what we do in one part of the world has an impact in another. Dr Cable in his Ministerial capacity in relation to business, innovation and skills will I’m sure be aware of the need of a fine balance between government (regulation, innovation), and economic (stimulation and equilibrium).

Dr Cable spoke of the liberalisation of the Indian economy and of the dismantling of state control of its planning processes and what would have been Gandhi’s opposition in the protection of rural industries. I can see both sides to this argument, in the semi rural community within which I live I am aware of a balance that needs to kept in the development of any economy, local, national or international and of the need to support those whose aspirations are to the husbandry of natural / rural environments (you cannot eat software), and there is much more to true economics than generating GDP through irresponsible planning processes and ill thought through economic stimuli. I believe aesthetics and analysis both to be part of this liberalisation and planning process, soul with pragmatism.

The balance between materialism / consumerism / waste in a world of finite resources and the subsequent impact on global ecology I feel sure concerns the majority of people in society today and as set out in Vince Cable’s view of true economics it will be the innovators, scientists, engineers, businesses, social entrepreneurs who will address these challenges, but perhaps equally as important the spiritual / moral dimension to be included in this equation will determine the society in which we all will eventually live.

Dr Cable then commented on the benefits of the “green revolution” and of the efficiencies gained in multiple cropping, fertilizers etc.

Those cultures who have tilled the land responsibly for centuries will already be aware of nature’s natural and sustainable cycles, the green revolution will be nothing new to them. However irrigation and mobile telephony, in ways as yet to be imagined, will transform their lives forever.

Jevon’s paradox however puts forward the view that efficiencies gained through technological progress in accessing resources, tend to increase the rate of consumption and if this is the case I believe humanity must define and find ways of living within a sustainable global budget.

Vince Cable then went on to elaborate on the meaning of Swadeshi, as self-reliant village communities, independent from their neighbours for vital wants.

All modern communities of which I am aware are reliant on some of their vital resources from others. Within my own village community I can see many benefits in the reduction of waste by providing within its borders a balanced local economy and employment for its residents, whatever their aspirations are. In all transactions going forward there should be benefits, financial, social or environmental, but no transaction should be at the expense of the other, the metrics and algorithm developed to measure impact, an important factor in creating a sustainable and equitable society, wherever it exists.

Community cohesion and social mobility, mentioned by Dr Cable, should mean something different to the emergence of ghettoes in the city of London for highly paid bankers, or traveling miles to get to work because a person in his or her chosen occupation cannot afford to live close to their employment. These are complexities any economic system will have to deal with, but not, I feel, insurmountable.

Personally I can see some merits in Gandhi’s Swadeshi that should be nurtured, valued and protected, however this should be in a local / national /international / mutual self-interest context.

We have seen both positive and negative impacts of outsourcing our industrial and other capabilities since the 1970s to places such as the far-east and the impact of this short term bottom line thinking has had on the manufacturing skills base of the United Kingdom. There are now not enough engineers to rebuild our own critical infrastructures.

There is a comfort in the idea of British critical infrastructure being held in trust on behalf of its population by a British institution, built and managed by British engineers and if the money needed to build it comes from abroad I feel sure, within the concept of mutual self interest, this can be achieved.

Protectionism is not a viable option in modern day society, whichever industry people are in, but perhaps as is the current focus of Dr Cable’s attention in the development of government economic policy it will include joined up thinking in areas such as education, infrastructure, employment and planning.

Dr Cable then went on to state that he saw little merit in British Swadeshi, and in terms of international trade I would agree that the sum of the whole, in an international context, is much greater than its individual parts. However I imagine in line with government policy, localism, the decentralization /devolution of government and the organic development of clusters of various activities at a local level will inevitably provide the international community with significantly more parts to the whole, which perhaps will propel all nations, including the United Kingdom, who adopt the same model, into an age of socioeconomic and environmental equilibrium.

Finally Dr Cable went on to state that he wanted to see businesses in the United Kingdom that were socially responsible to customers, supply chains, workers and to the exchequer, by self regulation, by naming and shaming. I would add, naming and shaming, if it is to be effective in the world of classic capitalism, transparency and accountability must be part of this Process.

It was a good lecture and a shared vision for the future.

Where is the Gandhian Business Model?
by Antony Copley

No Gandhian could disagree with Vince Cable’s interpretation of Gandhi’s approach to economics as far as his lecture went. He stopped short of Gandhi’s late visionary hopes for the Indian economy, one that was to be taken forward by the left Gandhians, J P Narayan and Vinobe Bhave. No doubt, however, it would be naïve to expect a Secretary of State for Business to move beyond the conventional paradigms of the market economy and the overriding importance of economic growth.

Cable led us through a perfectly plausible account of the way Gandhi had to work within the constraints of a colonial economy, rejecting laissez-faire, the imperial policy which of course advantaged British exports, and a nationalist demand for protectionism, the wish of Indian business interests to play a significant role in shaping Congress policy. This would shelter emergent indigenous capitalist growth, a protectionism most strikingly expressed in the doctrine of swadeshi, the clarion cry of the nationalist movement in its outraged rejection of the partition of Bengal in 1905. I’m not sure if Gandhi ever actually endorsed swadeshi, his concern being to protect artisan industry against both foreign and Indian factory production. I think Cable’s may be special pleading in speculating that Gandhi would have gone along with a globalisation that saw Indian handloom products being sold as luxury items abroad. It would be interesting to read his exposition of this in a jointly authored book with Gandhian L C Jain. But one can agree that Gandhi would have rejected the economic nationalism of the Hindutva movement and the BJP, despite their claims that he was one of their own.

And of course he is surely right to argue that Gandhi engaged in this debate not so much as an economist, for he was no expert in this field, but as a moralist. His concerns were ethical. Cable overlooks the profound influence of John Ruskin’s ideas on Gandhi, above all on the sacred nature of work. Here was one reason for Gandhi’s championing of khadi, his high evaluation of the skills of artisan workers through his constructive programme. The relevant concept here is sarvodaya. It was a policy that did indeed look to the self-sufficiency of the village community. This was nothing to do with the highly regressive programme of autarchy pursued by the Axis powers and such latterday totalitarian states as North Korea. Cable, at the end, advocates forms of decentralisation and here he is seemingly on Gandhi’s wavelength. But something much more far reaching than local autonomy is encompassed in Gandhi’s vision.

Maybe this late Gandhian outlook was never coherently expressed, with his life so tragically cut short. The left Gandhians teased out the quasi-socialist implications of Gandhi’s vision of a new social structure which would radiate outwards from the village, inspired by an oceanic, quasi-mystical sense. So Bhave took up a national crusade of land redistribution, the bhoodan movement, though this was to be on a voluntary basis, appealing to landlords to hand over land to the poor. Narayan of course moved into left-wing politics and was a critical figure in challenging Mrs Gandhi’s increasingly autocratic rule that led to the Emergency regime of 1975-77. Sadly, Bhave and Narayan stood on different sides in that crisis. This possibly reflected the ambiguities in Gandhi’s own outlook.

Arguably Gandhi’s late vision represented a new paradigm on how the economy was to based. All along he had opposed the liberal capitalist insistence on growth above all. His was an economic vision of reaching out to abject levels of poverty but seeking no more than the meeting of basic human needs, a view that rejected a merely materialist approach and was inherently ascetic. This was the way of life in his ashrams. Really and truly here lay Gandhi’s new business model and Cable was way off target. Are Gandhi’s panchayats [small elected body governing a village] indeed so irrelevant?

When the banking crisis struck in 2010 many believed this exposed the inherently flawed nature of capitalism and the opportunity to move from its endlessly preached mantra of growth to an entirely new paradigm of a sustainable economy. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, wrote eloquently of the need to respect our environment and not to exploit and abuse its resources. Of course all this was to tap into a long lament on such abuse from Rachel Carson to James Lovelock and many others. All this has taken on a horrible urgency with the recognition of the threat from climate change. A recent article in the New Statesman by Naomi Klein, ‘Science says: Revolt!’ (25-31 October 2013) describes how leading scientists reinforce this search for a new paradigm, the way government see the revolutionary implications of this new paradigm and are trying to suppress the scientists, and the need for direct action. In this context the ideas of Gandhi, far from seeming utopian, have an all too urgent relevance.

The way the Gandhian ashram and panchayat have been brought up to date and prove that they are not pie in the sky is demonstrated in an astonishing experiment in Gandhian-style communitarian living in Andalucia. In 1979 one Sanchez Gordillo was the first elected mayor of the pueblo of Marinaleda, today with but 2,700 citizens. In 1980 he led a hunger strike ‘against hunger’. In 1991 the 1,200 hectare El Humoso farm was taken over by the Marinaleda co-operative. It chose to develop an agriculture which maximised the use of labour and provide much needed employment. It was a rejection of a wheat based economy that used little labour and pursued mere economic efficiency. Profits of the co-operative are used to create ever newer employment. It is an anti-capitalist example which is catching on. Neighbouring Somante has set up its own co-operative on government owned land. Admittedly the Andalucian Workers Union were initially evicted in March 2012 but returned the next day and never left. Here, argues Dan Hancox, is just the kind of new economy that the indignados are seeking. (See his essay ‘Since the Financial Crisis, the Spanish Economy has been on its Knees. But one Village Stood and Fought’, The Observer 20/10/13 and his book The Village Against the World, Verso). Gandhi is certainly one source for Sanchez Gordillo’s visionary new economy. (Others are Jesus Christ, Marx, Lenin, and Che Guevara.) Gandhi’s attitude to labour, the need for both full employment and a shared labour within the community, is brilliantly realised in these two pueblos. It is of course equally a fulfilment of the ideals of Spanish anarchism.

Quite obviously Vince Cable could not have advocated such a radical new paradigm. He has no option but to stick with the mantra of growth. But here is in fact where a truly Gandhian business model lies.

Antony Copley is an honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Kent and a Trustee of The Gandhi Foundation
 
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Gandhi Foundation.

The Gandhi Foundation Annual Lecture 2011

Pax Gandhiana: Is Gandhian Nonviolence Compatible with the Coercive State?

with Professor Anthony Parel

Thursday 13th October 2011

at
The Nehru Centre, 8 South Audley St, London, W1K 1HF at 6:30 pm

Professor Anthony Parel

This year’s lecture argues that Gandhian nonviolence seeks much more than such things as the personal virtue of ahimsa, resistance to the erring state and pacifism. It seeks to initiate a new social and political order, a Pax Gandhiana, one that replaces Pax Britannica. Starting with a brief discussion of Gandhi’s abandoned attempt at writing a thesis on nonviolence, the lecture focuses on the three conditions necessary for Pax Gandhiana – a new philosophy of nonviolence, a new civic nationalism capable of unifying india and a new state that is coercive in some respects and nonviolent in others.

Anthony Parel is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Calgary (Harvard Ph D, 1963). He is author of Gandhi’s Philosophy and the Quest for Harmony (CUP, 2006) and The Machiavellian Cosmos (Yale, 1992) as well as other works. He was also co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Gandhi (2011) with Judith Brown of Oxford University.

The full text of the lecture can be found here

The Gandhi Foundation Annual Lecture and Peace Award – 2010

 

 

Ali Abu Awwad and Robi Damelin of the Parents Circle Families Forum holding The Gandhi Foundation Peace Award for 2010

 

This year the Gandhi Foundation’s Annual Lecture and Peace Award took place on the 3rd November in the House of Lords, in a session chaired by Lord Bhikhu Parekh, Vice President of The Gandhi Foundation.  Lord Parekh welcomed the guests and introduced Omar Hayat, a Trustee of The Gandhi Foundation who then explained why the Parents Circle Family Forum (PCFF) had been chosen as recipients of the 2010 International Peace Award. Omar described how when researching the PCFF after they had been nominated he began to feel both hope and sorrow: hope in that such initiatives were taking place, and sorrow that there is need for such an organisation.

The PCFF is a grassroots organization of bereaved Palestinians and Israelis, families who have lost loved ones to violence in the conflict. It promotes reconciliation as an alternative to hatred and revenge. Each year they arrange hundreds of dialogue encounters between Israelis and Palestinians, to promote mutual understanding.

In 2009 the Peace Award had been received by the Children’s Legal Centre (CLC)  in recognition of their work representing young and vulnerable children worldwide. In that ceremony Denis Halliday had presented the award to Professor Carolyn Regan, the Director of the CLC. Professor Regan gave an outline of some of the work that the CLC does: providing individual legal advice, telephone helplines and upholding children’s rights in many countries across the world, including some of the poorest. Then Professor Carolyn presented this year’s award jointly to Robi Damelin and Ali Abu Awwad, who are Public Relations officer and Programme manager of PCFF respectively.

Both Robi and Ali each gave a short acceptance speech. Robi mentioned that she had a family connection to Gandhi in that one of her relatives was Hermann Kallenbach who gave Gandhi the land for the ashram known as Tolstoy Farm in South Africa and was one of Gandhi’s closest friends. Robi said that for her joining the PCFF was a way of making a difference by understanding the shared pain that Israelis and Palestinians both experience, and that she chooses to prevent other families from experiencing this pain.

Ali talked about some of his history as a prisoner of the Israelis, and reading about Gandhi on hunger strike. He said that the next generation will be the evidence for our movement today. Ali said he hoped that our vision will be shared and joined in a structure of making peace in the Middle East and everywhere.

Following on from the Peace Award, the Annual Lecture took the form of a panel discussion, looking at the Middle East conflict from the point of view of non-violence. The members of the panel were: Robi Damelin, Israeli representative from the PCFF; Ali Abu Awwad, Palestinian representative from the PCFF; Denis Halliday, former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, Humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, and Patron of the Gandhi Foundation; Huw Irranca-Davies, MP and Patron of the PCFF. Lord Parekh asked the members of the panel to each speak for a few minutes before the session would be opened to speakers from the floor.

Robi started by stating that the long-term goal of the PCFF was to create a framework for a reconciliation process to be in place for when political agreements are signed. She outlined various initiatives that the PCFF is currently engaged in, including lobbying of politicians.

Ali posed the question – what could lead to freedom as a nation. His answer was that there were two ways: one to work on themselves, to create this structure, the other is reconciliation. To leave the occupation and the memories of the occupation behind. Ali expressed his belief that they would one day be free. Perhaps not in his lifetime, but it would happen.

Denis Halliday started by saying he was concerned firstly by the violations of human rights in respect of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem, on the West Bank, and in Gaza. His second concern is with the people of Israel itself: while Israel persists in aggressive military occupation, sets aside the human rights of the Palestinians, and until she shows respect for her neighbours and all of her own people and understands the importance of living together in dignity without humiliation then the future of Israeli wellbeing is in doubt.

Denis Halliday (r) previous recipient of the Peace Award and patron of The Gandhi Foundation with Huw Irranca-Davies (c) MP and Patron of the PCFF

Denis cast doubt on the role of the United States as a broker of peace in the region, and called for the other nations of the region such as Turkey and Egypt to become more involved in finding solutions to the conflict.  He referred to the US and Israel as rogue states. Having mentioned that the United States channels billions of dollars annually to Israel, which is mostly used for military purposes, Denis called for a massive injection of cash to help the Palestinians. He also said he wanted to encourage the Palestinians and the Israelis to imbue in their children love and understanding for peace.

Huw Irranca-Davies spoke next, referring to himself as a hopeless naïve. Huw said he had first come across the PCFF in Palestine when he was visiting there with the Labour Friends of Israel and the Labour Middle East Council. In the back room of a bar they listened to stories where individuals were faced with tragedy and bereavement but chose not to hurtle towards anger but to go in the other direction, and indeed to encourage others to go along with them. Huw said he is a Patron of the PCFF because there is something transformative about the idea that summer camps, telephone lines between the different sides, and working in schools can make a difference.

Lord Parekh then invited contributions from the floor. The first speaker expressed the view that peace and security are two sides of the same coin: there can be no peace without security and there can be no security without peace. The second said that he felt that ‘the Irish gentleman’ (Denis Halliday) made a diatribe against Israel and that it was unhelpful in the situation, and it made it difficult to move forward.

Following the next two speakers from the floor, Robi spoke and said that they all had made statements, not questions. She asked that if you care about the Israelis and the Palestinians, then help us to find a way to reconcile, do not create another conflict by making people be on the defensive – it doesn’t help. Robi said that she would appreciate questions that have to do with the human side, not politics.

Lord Bhikhu Parekh (r) Vice-President of The Gandhi Foundation

Ali appealed for people not to be part of the problem, but to be part of the solution. He also said that the Palestinians cannot live like they do forever – something has to change.

There were some further contributions from the floor, commented upon by the panellists, before Lord Parekh summed up by referring back to the conflicts that Gandhi was concerned with: between Muslims and Hindus; the British rulers and the Indian people; the orthodox Hindus and the untouchables. Gandhi did not face anything quite like the current conflict in the Middle East, but the principles by which he lived are relevant today.

Trevor Lewis
- Executive committee member of  The Gandhi Foundation

 

If you would like to read the introduction to The Gandhi Foundation Award by Omar Hayat and why the Parents Circle Family Forum was chosen please click on the Link below:

Introducing the Gandhi Foundation Peace Award 2010 to PCFF- Omar Hayat

 

If you would like to read the presentation speech by Professor Carolyn Regan, Director of the Children’s Legal Centre – last years peace award recipient, please click on the link below:

Presenting the 2010 award to PCFF by Carolyn Regan of the Children’s Legal Centre

The Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award and Annual Lecture 2010

To be presented to the
Parents Circle Families Forum

Wednesday 3rd November

6 – 8pm (seated by 5.45pm)

at The House of Lords
Room 4A

This year the Annual Lecture will take the form of a panel discussion with the following distinguished members:

  • The Parents Circle Families Forum (2 representatives: 1 Israeli and 1 Palestinian)
  • Denis Halliday – former Assistant General Secretary of the UN, who was on the recent flotilla to Gaza
  • Huw Irranca-Davies – Labour MP for Ogmore
  • Professor Lord Bhikhu Parekh – Chair.

The panel will discuss nonviolent solutions to the situation in the Middle East.

The Gandhi Foundation Trustees felt that the Parents Circle Families Forum has been guided by one of the highest forms of Gandhian ideals, that of dialoguing with and understanding the adversary’s point of view and finding common ground on which to base a solution. The PCFF is also working to influence public and political opinion on aspects of reconciliation as a means to finally resolving the problems of security, historical lineage and common inheritance. The bereaved families on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict have united in their common grief, have had the courage to advocate that further violence is not a solution and are striving peacefully to prevent future bereavements.

Tickets are free, but there is limited availability and those wishing to attend should contact Omar Hayat at: omarhayat@chemecol.net

The Gandhi Foundation Annual Lecture and Peace Award 2009 – The Children’s Legal Centre

Lord Bhikhu Parekh, Cherie Blair and Professor Carolyn Hamilton (Director of Childrens Legal Centre) receiving the Peace Award

Professor Carolyn Hamilton (Director of The Children's Legal Centre) and Cherie Blair receiving the Peace Award, with Lord Bhikhu Parekh

The Gandhi Foundation’s Annual Lecture and Peace Award were held this year in conjunction with The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple. The venue was the historic Temple Church, a building originally founded by the Knights Templar and now used, not just as a place of worship, but also for promoting understanding between faiths and peaceful dialogue on a variety of issues.

The Inner Temple had expressed their desire to have closer collaboration with The Gandhi Foundation as Mohandas Gandhi was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1888.

The preparation for the 2009 joint Annual Lecture started over a cup of coffee at the Sub Treasurer’s, Mr Patrick Maddams, office in spring 2008. Later, when the Peace award was agreed to be given to The Children’s Legal Centre, it was decided to join the two events. The date of 14th October was chosen as the most suitable given that on 2nd October, Gandhi’s birth date, many other events would be taking place.

Fasken Martineau, one of the world’s leading international business law and litigation firms with more than 650 lawyers with offices in Canada, the United Kingdom, France and South Africa agreed to sponsor the event. This enabled us to offer free tickets. Over 500 people from governmental bodies, legal firms, social services, academics and other organisations were contacted. Approximately 300 people came to the event – one of the largest numbers since Shabana Azmi received the award on behalf of Nivara Hakk in 2006.

Lord Bhikhu Parekh, a Patron of The Gandhi Foundation, welcomed the guests and explained the reasons why The Gandhi Foundation had chosen to present the 2009 International Peace Award to The Children’s Legal Centre (CLC).

Denis Halliday presenting the Peace Award to Professor Carolyn Hamilton

Denis Halliday presenting the Peace Award to Professor Carolyn Hamilton

The Peace Award was presented by Denis Halliday, a former recipient of the award himself, who had flown in from Ireland especially for the event.

The Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award is a means to acknowledge works of individuals or organisations that have actively and consistently adhered to the guiding principles of nonviolence and importantly have had an impact on either the political, legal or social challenges of our times.

The CLC certainly fit these criteria. One additional criteria, is that of an ‘un-sung hero’ i.e. people doing incredible work but not having been formally recognised.  When they were originally nominated, The Gandhi Foundation did not know much about them, but after a few weeks of research we were truly amazed at the breadth and scope of their work.

The work that the CLC are doing in representing young and vulnerable children, especially girls, and in helping to change the legal structures relating to children, is incredibly important. The outcomes affect not only the lives of these children but society at large and the future prosperity, not only in economic terms, of nations. The fact that the CLC’s work is especially focused in helping vulnerable girls from either social or legal abuse is, in our opinion, very important from a Gandhian prospective.

Mahatma Gandhi greatly valued the social role of women and called them the architects of civilization. He deeply lamented their inferior treatment and marginalization and insisted that unless women were given full equality society had no hope.

One of the defining features of any civilised society should be how it treats those that are marginalised, vulnerable and without representation. The CLC’s work certainly brings that representation, care and humanity.

After the presentation of the award to Professor Carolyn Hamilton, Director of the CLC, Cherie Blair, a long time patron of the CLC, gave an acceptance speech which is available by clicking this link: Cherie Blair’s acceptance speech on behalf of the Children’s Legal Centre

Justice Aftab Alam of the Indian Supreme Court giving the Annual Lecture

Justice Aftab Alam of the Indian Supreme Court giving the Annual Lecture

Following the presentation, The Rt Hon. Lord Justice Laws, Lord Justice of Appeals, took the stage to introduce Justice Aftab Alam of the Supreme Court of India, who had kindly agreed to give The Gandhi Foundation 2009 Annual Lecture. His speech on The Role of the Indian Supreme Court in Upholding Secularism in India was very well received and the transcript is available by clicking on the link below. A DVD of the event will also be available shortly. The lecture will also be published by the Inner Temple.

Following the lecture, a short Q&A session took place followed by a drinks reception, sponsored by Hardwick & Morris, Chartered Accountants.

The Gandhi Foundation Annual Lecture 2009 – The Role of the Indian Supreme Court in Upholding Secularism in India by Justice Aftab Alam


Omar Hayat
Trustee, The Gandhi Foundation
Annual Lecture & International Peace Award Organiser

2008 Peace Award & Annual Lecture – Harold Good & Alec Reid

Dr Omar Hayat, Rev Harold Good, Father Alec Reid, Lord Bhikhu Parekh

Dr Omar Hayat, Father Alec Reid, Rev Harold Good, Lord Bhikhu Parekh

Gandhi Peace Award 2008 – Citation
by Dr. Omar Hayat

Something extraordinary has taken place and is taking place in Northern Ireland. Something very powerful indeed. After decades of troubles the wholly unexpected coalition of the two extremes in the province, the Sinn Fein and the DUP has taken place (originally with the Reverend Paisley as First Minister (now replaced by Peter Robinson) and Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister).

However, it would always have been all too easy to despair of any resolution of the tribal politics of the province and Northern Ireland also has of course many similarities to the communal divide of India and the peacemakers of Northern Ireland all along faced in the Protestant/Catholic divide just the same sort of challenge as Mohandas Gandhi did in his prolonged struggle against the force of Hindu/Muslim communalism; which periodically grips India. Northern Ireland was always a Gandhian challenge and sometimes we forget how much of Gandhi’s struggle was one against terrorism. It was a struggle that did cost him his life. Clearly the Gandhi Foundation wanted to celebrate, indeed rejoice, in the triumph of non-violence over violence.

Omar Hayat and Bhikhu Parekh

Omar Hayat and Bhikhu Parekh

Of course, key to the recent political truce was the decommissioning process. Here there was a critical barrier to be overcome. No member of the IRA could afford to be photographed handing in their weapons – this according to their military code is a treasonable offence and so another solution had to be found. That was through the witness statements to the handing in of weapons to trusted representatives of the two communities. The men asked to take on this role were the Reverend Harold Good and Father Alex Reid who acted as clerical witnesses during General John de Chastelain’s disarmament process. This act of being representatives of the two communities and overseeing the disarmament requires a great deal of Trust, a very uncommon trust in today’s world which strives towards transparency, which in some circumstances is a very good thing but also implies a lack of trust. So literally these two men have been trusted by the rest of the world and especially the sectarian parties of Northern Ireland, just on their say so, to have told the truth. Otherwise the whole process would not have progressed. A heavy responsibility indeed.

Alec Reid and Harold Good

Alec Reid and Harold Good

It may be appropriate here if I read a few comments made at the time:

‘I hadn’t heard of Good before I saw him being interviewed on the news following the announcement of the disarmament. He gives a feeling of gentle sincerity and integrity which I personally feel engenders trust. It’s hard for me to understand why anyone would feel that he would lie or allow himself to be duped …………..’

‘It’s wonderful to know we have such people of faith as Rev. Good and Father Alec helping to make peace between the people of Northern Ireland and perhaps an encouragement to the rest of us that continue to hold onto `old hurt’ as we continue to blast the darkness instead of lighting a candle.

I want to now say something about the background of these two men to becoming witnesses in the disarmament process.

Rev. Harold Good

Rev. Harold Good

Reverend Harold Good
In all kinds of ways Harold Good has been involved in Gandhian causes. Born 1937 in Derry he was to follow his father into the Methodist ministry. He served as a probationary minister in the Dublin City mission in the 1950’s. He met his wife, Clodagh, whilst serving in Waterford.

In the 60’s he served in Ohio and came into direct involvement with the civil rights movement. He served in the largely black Methodist church in Indianapolis and there he was to be deeply affected by the assassination of Martin Luther King. He made a connection between racism and sectarianism.

Returning to Northern Ireland in 1968 it was through being assigned to a chapel in Agnes Road, Shankill, that he was plunged into the heart of the sectarian divide. He was witness to the consequences of brutal murders:

`I wasn’t isolated in an ivory tower. I know the pain inflicted by terrorists.’ He had to draw on the philosophy of John Wesley: `be friends of all and enemies of none.’ To quote Good himself: `honest relationships must have both, patience and aggressiveness, for the building of trust.’

In the course of his ministry he was active in the work of reconciliation and the resettlement of prisoners. He was the Director in the 70’s of the Corrymeela community., a centre for reconciliation between the communities. He was chair of NIACRO (Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Prisoners), part-time prison chaplain at Crumlin road prison, worked closely with both Republican and loyalist prisoners. A key part of the Good Friday agreement was of course the release and rehabilitation of all political prisoners.

In 1999 he was able to take a sabbatical in South Africa and his life converged very immediately with the life of Gandhi. He attended the centenary of the Phoenix farm settlement outside Durban and met Gandhi’s granddaughter. He became close to Bishop Tutu and was inspired by the South African Truth Commission and became actively involved and remains so to this day in the equivalent Healing through Remembering project in Northern Ireland.

Reverend Good has become a recognised speaker on conflict resolution, invited for example to lecture to the Basques. The Basque government awarded him the Rene Cassin Human Rights award. He and Father Reid were invited to give the John Hume lecture at the McGill University.

He was awarded an MBE in 1970 and OBE in 1985. He was elected President of the Irish Methodist Church 2001-2.

Father Alec Reid

Father Alec Reid

Father Alec Reid
Brought up in County Tipperary he was professed as a monk in the Redemptorist order 1950 (the Redemptorists were founded in 1732, for mission work among the poor, and significantly refused to restrict their mission to just educational work) and in 1954 joined the Clonard monastery in Belfast, sited at the crossroads between the Nationalist Catholic community and the Protestant Shankill road. Here he was to spend the next 40 years.

In the nature of his vocation this has been a more public than private life. In 1988 he gave the last rites to two Royal signals corporals who accidentally strayed into a republican funeral and were killed by the Provisional IRA. Father Reid has always been a committed opponent of violence. In this cause from the late 80’s onwards he engaged in talks between all the political parties, first facilitating a meeting between SDLP leader John Hume and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, meeting Charles Haughey in 1987 and thereafter involved discreetly in the political process right through to the Good Friday agreement of 1998.

He has likewise been involved in the peace process in Basque Spain and in 2002 was awarded the Sabino Arana `World Mirror prize ‘by the Sabino Arana Foundation of Bilbao.

He is currently based in Dublin. Although, recently he was not feeling too well we are delighted that he has come today. So, here was the background to the trust placed in them both as a witness to the decommissioning process.

I would now like to ask Lord Bhikhu Parekh to present the Gandhi Foundation 2008 International Peace Award to Reverend Harold Good & Father Alexander Reid.

Bhikhu Parekh and Harold Good

Bhikhu Parekh and Harold Good

Peace Award Acceptance Speech & Annual Lecture
by Dr. Harold Good

Thank you … and thank you Father Alec for speaking on behalf of us both and for expressing so eloquently the immense sense of honour and privilege of which we are both so aware this evening.

Following Our Part In The Verification of De-Commissioning . . .
There was a great deal of interest on the part of journalists and writers, all of whom wanted a “scoop”! One of them interviewed me for a book in which he asked why I got myself involved in all of this. In reply I said something to the effect that I wanted to leave my grandchildren and the children of their generation, the gift of peace. One of my daughters was reading this to her ten year old son and said,

“Wasn’t that a nice thing Granddad said … he wanted to leave you the gift of peace !” To which he replied, “I hope he will leave us some of his money as well !”

I hope he will be happy with the peace …. because there won’t be a lot else! More seriously, I can think of no greater gift that one generation could leave to another, than the gift of a world more at peace with itself than the one it inherited.

Gandhi Foundation audience

Gandhi Foundation audience

I know that this is where we and Gandhi and this Foundation which bears his name will find common ground. We can all think of iconic figures of the 20th Century. People who have left their mark on the pages of history for many different reasons. Some for their music, some for their analytical insights and others for their scientific achievements. But of those who have made the greatest contribution to our understanding of how we are meant to resolve our conflicts and how we are to share life on this planet, the first names to come to mind will be those of Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. Each of them in their own distinctive way has influenced us all, as they have influenced history. But of the four, the one whose life and teaching helped more than any to shape the thinking of the other three was, of course, Mahatma Gandhi.

This year we have marked the 40th Anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King and the 60th Anniversary of the death of Gandhi. How ironic, that two relentless advocates of non-violence should both suffer such a violent death. Those of my age and above may remember something of that fateful 30th day of January, 1948 , when on our crackling wireless sets we heard of the assassination of this strangely clad, skeletal and bespectacled little man in the distant land of India. As a ten year old schoolboy I could not have understood the significance of that event and would have paid it little attention.

For me it was many years later when I began to understand the impact of Gandhi’s teaching upon a world that lay well beyond the shores of either India or Ireland. By then it was the mid-sixties and I was living and studying in the then very turbulent and racially divided United States of America.

During that time I was serving a black inner-city congregation – from whom I learned much more about grace than I did about race! But nothing prepared me for the task of ministering to those people in the week that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King. A week when everything he had preached and learned from Gandhi was put to the ultimate test. But a week in which America and the world was to see that no assassin’s bullet could destroy the dream. A dream which is unfolding before our very eyes during these final days of the American election.

It was not surprising, that upon my return to Ireland in the late sixties I was to bring something of that experience into an inner city parish in the then turbulent Northern Ireland. It was on our first visit to South Africa that Clodagh and I stood on the railway platform in Pietermaritzburg where Gandhi , the Cambridge educated lawyer was ejected from the first class compartment for no reason other than the colour of his skin and his ethnic origins. This, of course, is where it all began. Those who flung him from that train could not have known that in that moment they were launching one of the most powerful movements in world history!

Later we drove to Phoenix near Durban to see for ourselves the settlement where Gandhi established a model of community for fellow Indians who, like himself, had been marginalised in the country of their adoption. We had been invited to the dedication of a memorial to Gandhi, to be attended by the Prime Minister of India. Our host was responsible for the arrangements, and with a life-size marble bust of the Mahatma on the back seat we bumped our way to Phoenix. I have a wonderful memory of Clodagh and Gandhi hanging on to their seats, if not each other! Sadly, it rained all through the ceremony and when leaving our vehicle got firmly stuck in a sea of mud. We pushed and shoved with the help of a gracious man who I asked to help us … not knowing until we were both covered in mud that he was none other than the grandson of Gandhi himself!

Having shared all of that, I hasten to add that these rich experiences do not make me a Gandhian expert. On the contrary, I am very conscious that I am in the presence of people who have already forgotten more than I will ever know about the Mahatma. So I will be cautious in my references!

On a recent evening I watched a BBC documentary to mark the 40th Anniversary of the first Civil Rights March in Northern Ireland. It was entitled, “The Day the Troubles Began”. But as we all know, our troubles began long before 5th October 1968. As I watched the scenes of bloody confrontation between the peaceful protestors and the police, I looked at Gandhi on the cover of the book on my knee and thought how different our story might have been if long before 1968 we had taken time to hear what Gandhi had to say to Ireland, as well as to India.

Not that the real Gandhi was the infallible ‘saint’ which many of his followers perceived him to be. Indeed, he would be the first to remind us of his own imperfections and of his personal vulnerability.

“I am not a god”, he would say. “Indeed, if the truth were known I am tempted more than most men . . .”

In his personal life he was a complex man. Like the Protestant Puritans he struggled with irrational guilt and his natural desires. In his political life he had many critics as well as disciples. His biographer, Judith Brown, encapsulates him well when she writes,

“He was a man of his time and place, with a particular philosophical and religious background, facing a particular political and social situation. He was also deeply human, capable of heights and depths of sensation and vision, of great enlightenment and dire doubt. The roots of his attitudes and actions were tangled, as are most people’s. He made good and bad choices. He hurt some, yet consoled and sustained many. He was caught in compromises, inevitable in public life.”

So what was it about this enigmatic figure which made him an icon of the 20th Century? What is it about him that continues to bring people , such as ourselves, together on a night such as this, sixty years after his death? Again, Judith Brown.

“….. fundamentally, Gandhi was a man of vision and action, who asked many of the profoundest questions that face humankind as it struggles to live in community. It was this confrontation out of a real humanity which marks his true stature and which makes his struggles and glimpses of truth of enduring significance. As a man of his time who asked the deepest questions, even though he did not have all the answers, he became a man for all times and all places.”

Returning to the theme of this evening, “Lessons for Peacemaking”, Gandhi offers two fundamental principles to those who would be serious about making peace. Firstly he said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”, reminding us of the need for personal integrity in the search for peace. This was the distinctive genius of Gandhi, he ‘lived the dream’. His words and actions were one, not two. In his lifestyle; his long marches; his going to prison; his readiness to fast unto death, there could be no doubt about his integrity as well as his intent.

Secondly, in a world where people instinctively assume that violence is the only sure way to challenge and change an unjust order, or that physical force is the only way of dealing with civil unrest and insurgency, Gandhi insists that there is always another and a better way. This is where I want us to connect with the Irish Peace Process.

Amongst the many books from which I sought inspiration for this lecture, I found this one in my local library. What a fascinating title, “A Word to Gandhi, the lesson of Ireland”! It is a remarkable book, addressed to Gandhi in 1931 by none other than a Brigadier-General Crozier of the British Army who had served in Ireland during the bloodiest years of the Irish rebellion. The Brigadier concludes his book with these words,

“Having seen a great deal of force in use, having applied that force for over thirty years, having experienced the utter failure of force, I must needs look for other weapons with which to achieve the welfare of mankind”

In his insistence that there must be another and a better way to resolve the problems of both Ireland and India, he pleads for a return to

“…… the weapons of love, tolerance, faith and truth and a cleansing of the stables”

Those of us who draw our inspiration from the Jesus of history, as did Gandhi, will remember his words,

“you have heard it said of old …but l tell you there is a new way”.

And it was St Paul who introduced his timeless words about the power of love by saying,

“But now I will show you a more excellent way . . .” (1st Corinthians 12/13)

For All Parties To Our Conflict,
The time had come when we knew there had to be another way. After thirty and more years of violence, the people of Ireland, North and South, Nationalist and Unionist, Catholic and Protestant, were weary of war. None more so than the victims and survivors of our conflict who would resonate with the words of Gandhi when he spoke of the awfulness and the futility of violence.

“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?”

Inevitably, the search for another and a better way begins with the acceptance of REALITY. And, as we know, reality can be painful. For Republicans, with their long history, the painful reality was that their political aspiration would not and could not be achieved through an never-ending armed and bloody struggle. For the British Government it meant acceptance of the reality that there was never going to be a military solution to the Irish problem.

A reality about which Brigadier Crozier had written to Gandhi so many years before! . . . Why does it take us so long to learn from the lessons of history? But within those realities were other realities. None of which came easily to a people entrenched in history and engulfed in violence. For Unionists it was the acceptance of the right of Nationalists to equal rights of citizenship as well as their legitimate political aspiration. For Nationalists it was the acceptance of the right of Unionists to theirs. In the search for a better way one must offer to the other nothing less than one would ask for oneself. The ultimate reality was that this part of Ireland was home to people of both traditions, Nationalist and Unionist, Catholic and Protestant, who must finally find a way to live together.

IF the acceptance of REALITY is the first step in the search for peace . . . the second is the need for DIALOGUE. This is not to suggest that there was no dialogue prior to the setting up of formal talks. While not widely publicised, throughout those violent years there was much informal dialogue which for many of us began on the streets of our cities in the darkest of days and nights.

We continued that dialogue in Protestant parsonages and Catholic monasteries; in private homes and grass-roots movements where people of goodwill came together to share their fears and their frustration. For those involved, such gatherings provided an antidote to consummate hatred and dismal despair and sustained a vision of what ultimately was to follow.

However, significant as it was, much of this dialogue was limited to conversations between like-minded people, none of whom would ever resort to violence as a way of resolving a dispute of any kind. The time had come for dialogue to include historic enemies. Something that would be resisted, but which people of goodwill were prepared to facilitate.

Yitzhak Rabin, former Prime Minister of Israel, made relentless efforts to make peace with Palestine. During the peace talks, he was pictured shaking the hand of his arch enemy, Yassar Arafat. In the face of furious criticism, he said, “you make peace with your enemies, not with your friends.” In the context of our community, subjected to years of violence and counter-violence, this would be as unthinkable as it was unpalatable. Not many would understand Gandhi’s approach to dialogue with an opponent. Gandhi’s word for this was “SATYAGRAHA.” He explains it …

“It is never the intention of SATYAGRAHA to embarrass your opponent. The appeal is never to his fear; it is, must be, always to his heart.”

“Behind my non-cooperation there is always the keenest desire to co-operate on the slightest pretext, even with the worst of opponents. To me, a very imperfect mortal, ever in need of God’s grace, no one is beyond redemption.”

In describing the dialogue which brought us to where we now are, I use the image of a curtained stage. There were three levels at which people talked, which I describe as ….

  1. Back-stage
  2. Off-stage
  3. On-stage

Firstly, BACK STAGE
By this I refer to ‘behind the scenes’, informal, unrecorded conversations for which no one would be held accountable. Opportunities for people from all sides of this conflict to hear one another, some for the very first time. As it had to be an HONEST dialogue it was not always an easy dialogue. While TRUTH can ultimately make us free, it can also be very painful.

All too easily forgotten due to later events and the passage of time, was the courageous initiative on the part of Protestant churchmen who, in 1974, met secretly with the leadership of the IRA at a hotel in Feakle, Co Clare. Our history might have been very different had those talks not been abandoned after the unexpected arrival of the Irish Police in response to a tip-off!

While it is of such conversations that Father Alec and I are most familiar, you will have noticed that we do not speak of them in any detail. Unlike others, there will be no ‘reveal-all books’! For honest dialogue there must be mutual trust…. a trust which is sacred and must never be betrayed.

Father Alec Reid

Father Alec Reid

For Father Alec there was the remarkable back-stage dialogue which led to the ground-breaking Hume-Adams talks resulting in the IRA cease-fire of 1994. In a BBC 4 profile it was Olivia O’Leary who paid my friend a well-deserved compliment when she said,

“In every conflict there is a no man’s land into which few will dare to go. Father Alec was one who did.”

For me, and for others from my tradition, there were endless days of dialogue with those committed to the antithesis of the political position embraced by the majority of people from our part of the community. This was not an easy tension, but one we chose to carry discreetly within ourselves.

I return to my image of the curtained stage. At the theatre, when curtains are pulled, the band plays and the leading players walk on stage, we are unaware of those who helped to shift the furniture, adjust the lighting and write the scripts. What matters most is what we see before us, and what is to follow. So it is in making peace. And rightly so.

The second level of dialogue is that which we describe as “OFF-STAGE”
For those involved this was difficult, potentially politically dangerous and full of risk, for there is no definite outcome. In the 1980s an IRA re-armed by Libya intensified its violent campaign and the state was accused of “shoot to kill”. There seemed to be no end to the “Long War”. But behind those violent images was a secret ‘backchannel’ involving the British Security Services, a facilitator, Derry businessman Brendan Duddy, and Martin McGuinness. Having accepted reality, both sides knew that the only way out of this conflict would be through negotiation and dialogue. This is but one example of “off stage” dialogue where issues and potential are explored in private before arriving on the public stage.

The third level of dialogue we describe as “ON STAGE”.
Throughout the years there have been many much publicized initiatives, each of which it was hoped would break the deadlock and resolve our conflict. We remember most by name, if not in detail. The ‘Anglo-Irish Agreement’; the ‘Sunningdale Agreement’ ; the ‘Downing Street Declaration’. Usually these initiatives are described as “failed” or “ill-fated”. In my view they should not be, for each was followed by strenuous efforts to build on what had been learned. Here I pause to pay tribute to the leadership of David Trimble and John Hume who put process and peace before self and party and paid a high electoral price, but without whose vision and effort we would not be where we now are.

An important lesson from our history is that to have any chance of success, dialogue must be inclusive. Father Alec’s simple but profoundly important image is of a ‘table’ around which all parties to a conflict are invited to sit, as equals. This was the basis of the talks chaired by Senator George Mitchell which led to the Good Friday Agreement. While Ian Paisley’s party and lesser known Bob McCartney chose to leave the table when Sinn Fein took their seats, their seats were kept for them while others sat through long days and nights until they arrived at agreement.

This was to be the genius of the Good Friday Agreement. As a ‘man-made’ agreement it could not be perfect, and was not acceptable to all. But in separate referenda it received the overwhelming endorsement of the people in both parts of Ireland. Here at last was CONSENSUS as to what was no longer acceptable as well as agreement on a way forward based on exclusively peaceful means and respect for the rights of all
To achieve consensus, there is an inevitable need for COMPROMISE.

Those who would argue that ‘compromise’ is a doubtful if not ‘dirty’ word will know that no marriage or any meaningful relationship would survive without it! It is not without significance that the words ‘compromise’ and ‘accommodation’ share a common root. Therefore compromise, like accommodation, is about making space for one another.

In the Good Friday Agreement there was much that was mutually acceptable to all of the parties. But there were highly contentious issues which could only be resolved through compromise. One such issue was the demand for the early release of ‘politically-motivated’ prisoners from both sides of our conflict, many of whom had been guilty of the most heinous of crimes.

At that time I chaired an organisation that shared responsibility for the care and resettlement of prisoners of all kinds and we facilitated an informed debate on the issue. Amongst those who had difficulty with the concept of early release were people from the churches.

So, I invited their representatives to meet with Brian Currin, a South African lawyer who had been involved within their Truth and Reconciliation Commission. One of my guests asked,

“But what about justice?”

“Don’t speak or think of this as justice” said Brian. “This is not about justice. You cannot speak of this as justice to a widow or an orphan. This is about giving all parties to the conflict an opportunity to share in a new beginning, whether you think they deserve it or not.”

“That” said I, “is what we as preachers call ‘grace’!”

“If that is your word”, said he, “keep using it for you will need a lot of it!”

In addition to ‘reality’; ‘dialogue’; ‘consensus’ and ‘compromise’, every peace process needs visible ‘SIGNS AND SYMBOLS’. This was what lay behind the demand of Unionists, and of both governments, for the complete de-commissioning of the weapons of the IRA. For Unionists, they would not contemplate sharing government with Republicans until there was evidence of ‘deeds not words’.

The historic Constitution of the Republican movement clearly forbids the surrender of one’s weapon. It speaks highly of the patience of Gen. John de Chastelain and his colleagues on the International Commission on De-commissioning that they were able to agree a process with the leadership of the IRA whereby their weapons would be put permanently ‘beyond use’ and ‘beyond reach.’ It was no surprise that the demand of Mr Paisley and the Democratic Unionists for photographic evidence was unacceptable to the IRA. The compromise was that two clerics, one Catholic and one Protestant, should be the ‘seeing eyes’ to verify what had taken place. Father Alec and I were entrusted with that task. While we do not speak of the detail of that exercise, neither of us will forget the moment when out of the shadows, a lone figure who watched over us during those days stepped forward and with military precision handed his weapon to General de Chastelain.

At that moment Father Alec leaned over and whispered in my ear, “there goes the last gun out of Irish politics.”

To report what we had seen with our own eyes was conformation of a visible sign that as far as Republicans were concerned, ‘their war was over’.

Other visible confidence-building measures included the implementation of the Patten Report on policing. A new name, new uniform, badges and insignia were very visible signs and symbols of a new Police which from now on would be fully accountable and representative of the whole community.

And there were those remarkable images from May of last year when all of the parties took their seats in the new Stormont Assembly. For me the lasting image is that of First Minister, Ian Paisley, and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, going through the door of that building. Note the hand of one upon the arm of the other. This truly was ‘the hand of history’. And worth a thousand choreographed handshakes!

These are but some of the ‘Lessons for Peacemaking’, from our story. We could go on to speak of the need for ‘HOPE’. In one of his biographies , Gandhi is described in the language of the Old Testament prophet Zechariah as ‘a prisoner of hope’. Without that dogged and at times stubborn quality of hope, every peace process would fall victim to despair.

Many years ago, during the darkest days and nights of our troubles, our local newspaper invited children to write of their hopes for Northern Ireland. I still have the cutting with the simple hope of one little girl who wrote,

‘I want to grow up in a Northern Ireland where you can look at a sunset without wondering what are they bombing tonight.’

When I saw the cover of the Good Friday Agreement, I wondered did she remember what she wrote? I certainly did, for it was her letter as much as anything which prevented me from giving up.

Today our children see sunsets instead of bombs. As a community we have faced and accepted realities; engaged in dialogue; achieved consensus; accepted compromise and witnessed the signs and symbols of peace. In the context of his beloved India, Gandhi wrote what would well describe what we have seen . . .

“Things undreamt of are daily being seen, the impossible is ever becoming possible. We are constantly being astonished these days at the amazing discoveries in the field of violence. But I maintain that far more undreamt of and seemingly impossible discoveries will be made in the field of non-violence.”

But while lessons have been learned, we cannot sit back and assume that our schooling in the ways of peace is complete. It is the American poet Robert Frost who speaks of the temptation to retreat to what might appear to be a ‘safe’ place.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep … but we have miles to go before we sleep … and we have promises to keep.”

Last year, in the Basque Country, Father Alec and I shared a platform with Rolf Meyer, former Minister for Security in the discredited Apartheid Government of South Africa. He later became the chief negotiator in a peace process with the ANC. He outlined ten steps in that process. Number 9 was the need for a ‘CHANGE OF MIND’. What could follow that? As preachers we should have known. Number 10 was the need for ‘A CHANGE OF HEART.’

Remembering what happened on the train at Pietermaritzburg, Gandhi would have rejoiced in hearing that. As a deeply spiritual person, who insisted that spiritual values should be the basis for political action, he would resonate with that need for a change of heart.

As we observed the relationship between First Minister Ian Paisley, the man who consistently said “No” and “Never”, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, self-confessed commander of the IRA, there was clearly something more than a change of mind!

As churches, we must accept responsibility for our part in our tragic history. But if part of the problem, we must now be part of the solution. And if we are true to what we preach, our distinctive contribution must be in the transformation of hearts and minds. Only when we dismantle the ‘barricades’ in our attitudes will the peace walls be taken down. It will be in the de-commissioning of our mind-set that we will set each other free from fear.

Like Gandhi, we too are on an unfinished journey. None must be left behind, not least those victims on every side who have not yet found healing. Like Gandhi we too have our deep disappointments as we see what he called

“wasted opportunity through the scramble for power and diversion of political energy”

But from the lessons of history, this is a journey from which we dare not turn back, not least for the sake of the child who wrote that letter and her children and theirs. So thank you for taking time to try and understand us, and please be patient with us as we continue our journey and share our story.

2007 Annual Lecture: Bhikhu Parekh

The 2007 Gandhi Foundation Annual Lecture was given on Sunday 2nd December by Professor Lord Bhikhu Parekh. The theme of the lecture was “Why is Gandhi still Relevant?”. The text of the lecture was similar to Bhikhu’s Fred Blum Memorial Lecture: Gandhi in the 21st Century

Professor Bhikhu Parekh is well-known as an intellectual on Gandhi and solutions to current ethical and social problems. Bhikhu Parekh is Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Westminster, Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the University of Hull, U.K., and was until recently Centennial Professor at the London Schools of Economics. He has been a Visiting Professor at several universities including McGill, Harvard, Institute of Advanced Study in Vienna, the University of Pennsylvania, and Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. He delivered Litowitz Lecture at Yale University in 2003, and was recently invited as Distinguished Visitor by the Cardozo Law School in New York. He was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Baroda, India, from 1981 to 1984.

Prof. Parekh is the author of several books including Hannah Arendt and the Search for a New Political Philosophy, (Macmillan, 1981), Marx’s Theory of Ideology, (Johns Hopkins University, 1982), Contemporary Political Thinkers, (Johns Hopkins University, 1982), Gandhi’s Political Philosophy, (Macmillan, 1989), Colonialism, Tradition and Reform, (Sage, 1989), and Gandhi, (Oxford University Press, 1998). He has edited a dozen books including four volumes of Critical Assessments of Jeremy Bentham, (Routledge, 1994) and published nearly a hundred articles in academic journals and anthologies. His Rethinking Multiculturalism was published by Harvard University Press in the U.S.A. and Macmillan in Britain in 2000. He is about to complete his new book titled Identity and Rationality.

Professor Parekh is also active in British political life. He was for five years Deputy Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, and chaired the Commission on the Future of Multi Ethnic Britain, whose report (called the Parekh Report) was published in 2000. He received the BBC’s Special Lifetime Achievement Award for Asians in November 1999, and was appointed to the House of Lords in March, 2000. Last year he received Sir Isaiah Berlin Prize for Lifetime Contribution to Political Philosophy, and Pravasi Bharatiya Samman from the President of India. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, and President of the Academy of Learned Societies in the Social Sciences. He has received nine Honorary Doctorates from British Universities.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 754 other followers