New Zealand PM hails Gandhi's unifying power of inter-faith, inter-cultural understanding

New York, United States Published: Sep 25, 2019, 12:38 PM(IST)

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photograph:( AFP )

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'Gandhi himself understood the inner truths of all faiths of dignity and humanity that bind all people and all religion,' Ardern said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday hailed Mahatma Gandhi's unifying power of inter-faith and inter-cultural understanding that bind all people and all religions across the globe, at a cultural event hosted by India at the United Nations.

Addressing an event to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of the Mahatma at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), along with other world leaders, Ardern said, "At a time when religion could have been used to divide us we saw the unifying power of inter-faith and inter-cultural understanding. Gandhi himself understood the inner truths of all faiths of dignity and humanity that bind all people and all religion."

"Gandhi himself said that we should cultivate non-violence in our daily lives along with truthfulness, humility, and tolerance. These are challenges not only faced by my country but others across the globe as well," she added.

The Prime Minister started her speech by saying 'Namaste' and stated, "Our presence here is a reflection of the close ties between India and New Zealand and also the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi which was felt in the farthest corners of the globe including New Zealand."

"I had first heard of the Mahatma when I was a schoolgirl," she started.

"Gandhi himself understood the inner truths of all faiths of dignity and humanity that bind all people and all religion. Like Gandhi, we should not be afraid to stand up and transform our society for the better," the prime minister stressed further.

She said that New Zealand has recently witnessed a tragic consequence of intolerance and violence, and added, "I saw terrorism sought to divide us and took the lives of 51 innocent worshippers."

Ardern's remarks came in the wake of 15 March's Christchurch mosque shootings in her country which killed 51 people.

Yet in the face of this act of hatred and violence, the Muslim community in New Zealand opened doors for all New Zealanders and the world to grieve with them.

The act of peace was a powerful and empowering message.

By opening the doors they sowed the seeds of forgiveness, diversity, humanity and love, the leader noted.

Ardern also said that Gandhi had mulled the expression of political dissent through non-violent opposition.

"It is critical to resolving tensions in a peaceful manner. I believe that Gandhi's legacy as relevant as it was before. It calls on us to reject bigotry and embrace kindness and truth," she told the attendees.

In her concluding remarks, she said, "We look forward to Gandhi's principles to address the pressing problems. There are three aspects of Gandhi message that carry particular weight: tolerance, equality and quantity of non-violence and peace."

"These are values that we should always keep in the forefronts of our minds not just in good times but especially when faced with difficult choices," she noted further.

World leaders including Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and South Korean President Moon-Jae-in were also present at the occasion in New York.

The event was hosted to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, which underlined the continuing relevance of Gandhian thoughts and values in today's world. 

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