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Speech by High Commissioner Ms. Ruchira Kamboj at the International Acts of Kindness Launch Programme Oct 02, 2018, Cape Town

Posted on: October 03, 2018 | Back | Print

The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.” So said Mahatma Gandhi the father of Modern India, and arguably also the greatest peace icon of the modern era. Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with great honour and delight that I speak here today on his birthday, as we in India kick off a two year celebration honouring Mahatma  Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary, reminding ourselves of his legacy that gave us our today. Gandhi's legacy of Satyagraha! An ideology which stresses fearlessness in strength and depth in character. An ideology more so than just “non-violence” or “peace”, but of resilience like no other. 

My congratulations to the UNESCO MGIEP, Africa Unite, Activate and our gracious hosts the Western Cape Government all of whom are a part of this remarkable youth focused campaign centering around Kindness, my greetings to the Honourable Mbombo, the Honourable Buckwa and Ms Mangaliso and to this wonderful audience.

It’s interesting to see what the world is today. Without much doubt we witness a planet of chaos. We sit and watch our delicate atmosphere fracture. We observe intolerance. We see avarice. We watch fear. And pain. But, of course I don’t need to stand here and tell all of you this. Switch on the news, turn a page of the recent paper, check your phones. I think it is quite logical to conclude that the obvious nature of our difficult world can be understood by most. Now, the only question which remains is: what next?


Well, it requires no genius nor character to notice that there is so much wrong within the world. It takes character to do something beautiful in this world, despite the fact that there is devastation.

“Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” This quote by Jalal ad-Din Rumi carries a great deal of beauty. It echoes Mahatma Gandhi’s ideology with rare perfection, as it stresses upon strength without violence. Fearlessness without ferocity. Bravery without bloodshed.

As even William Shakespeare himself advocated, it is silent strength which requires the most strength. It is the peaceful revolution which takes character. Not the facile act of a pulling a trigger. Anger is effortlessly cheap. It is the act of leading a nation which had been crippled into poverty and repression by those who considered themselves ‘superior’ which is strength. It is the act of standing up in a freezing railway station after being thrown to the ground that is Satyagraha.


In 1893, when Mahatma Gandhi was evicted from his first-class cabin- here in South Africa- two choices remained with him: to solely criticize a system of brutality and oppression, or to rise. To create Satyagraha. To do something beautiful within the world. And of course, he chose the latter and of course, it is his commitment to Satyagraha which brought India its liberation in 1947. 

71 years of independence has accelerated our country with rare ambition and success. Today we are not only one of the fastest growing economies in the world, we have eradicated critical epidemics, dramatically increased life expectancy, launched some of the most powerful and daring rockets and satellites into space, competing with leading aeronautics companies around the globe, were the first country in the world to give every adult voting rights since our independence, have had women being our Presidents and Prime Ministers leading our country, stand as a nation of secularism and diversity, with 29 languages spoken with 700 dialects.


We owe who we are to the man who fought for us during a time where none had succeeded. Mahatma Gandhi is one man India owes its life to.


But even beyond India’s own liberation, Gandhiji stood for more than a symbol for his own country. His name travels around the world everyday, so much so that the name ‘Gandhi’ is now a cliché. However, for Nelson Mandela in South Africa, his name inspired the same compassion and allowed Madiba to come the Father of his Nation. Several anti-apartheid campaigns were modelled around the Gandhi’s notion of nonviolent resistance and strength. 


And even beyond South Africa, Gandhi has been responsible for inspiring some of the most powerful leaders within the world including the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi, John Lennon citing Gandhi as a heavy influence on his lyrics and activism, Albert Einstein stating that Gandhi was the most enlightened political man of our time, Will Durant: breathtaking author and historian stating that Gandhi was marked by gentleness, disinterestedness, simplicity of soul and forgiveness of enemies. We have the astonishing phenomenon of a revolution led by a saint”.


Of course, few can articulate with the eloquence of Durant, but the notion of a revolution to change a country and its people being led by the simplicity of a saint, is why Gandhiji will always ignite that spark of rising above. Of passion. Of control. Of change.

Against this backdrop and in this context therefore I congratulate the UNESCO MGIEP and its partners in taking the initiative to launch a youth focused campaign centered around Kindness in the effort to achieve the UN SDGs, universal goals that seek to unify and dignify all, premised on the notion that acts anchored on the competencies of kindness empathy and compassion form the foundation of a more sustainable future.  

It has often been said that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Or that a good life is one that makes a difference. Mahatma Gandhi epitomized that... and more.  The most lethal weapon he created was born in the mind. Satyagraha was an ideology of compassion and forgiveness, unique to anything felt or seen. 125 years ago harking back to Pietermaritzburg South Africa when Satyagraha was "born", the notion of changing a country and breaking a crippling system of oppression would have enough to discourage most. The very idea of reshaping an entire country is so immensely revolutionary that to imagine doing so without ferocity or bloodshed would be an impossibility for most at the time. However, it was Mahatma Gandhi’s conviction in his enlightenment which allowed him to liberate a country and its people.

May I also remind this audience that the United Nations has declared 2 October as International Non Violence Day,  in reverence to Gandhi and his unique philosophy of peace, compassion and non-violence towards one and all. He was truly the change that he wished to see in the world. 

It is my honour to address you at an event where so many have put their hearts into.

 It is my conviction that all the hours of hard work and constant planning will lead to a beautiful conclusion today.


Thank you very much.