Gandhi's Granddaughter Joins World's Activists in New Peace Force
Published on Friday, November 29, 2002 by Agence France Presse
Gandhi's Granddaughter Joins World's Activists in New Peace Force

NEW DELHI -- The granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, Ela Gandhi, joined some 100 peace activists from 45 countries on the outskirts of New Delhi on Friday to launch a major new peace movement.

Known as Nonviolent Peaceforce, the international non-governmental organization was to be formally inaugurated during a five-day conference in Surajkund, which borders New Delhi, organizers said.

Nonviolent Peaceforce aims to resolve conflict through dialogue and peaceful means all over the world, according to its founding charter.

Members say once they have identified areas of conflict, they will link with local peace groups to initiate dialogue between the warring factions.

The movement will draw from 60 member organizations involved in similar projects in their own countries.

"Our objective is to replace military peacekeeping with civilian peacekeeping. We can do things better than the military," said delegate John Stewart from Zimbabwe.

The movement had its genesis in the 1999 Hague Appeal for Peace, which gathered more than 9,000 people to launch a peace movement.

The convention has planned a pilot project for 2003, in Guatemala, Israel or Sri Lanka.

Among the keynote speakers Friday were Bangladesh opposition leader Sheikh Hasina Wajed, who recounted the bloody coup in which her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Bangladesh's first president, along with 17 other members of the family, was assassinated in 1975.

She and her sister escaped as they were in Germany at the time.

Ela Gandhi, now a member of the South African parliament, told AFP of her struggle against the apartheid rule and how she would accompany her father to marches against the brutal former white minority government.

She was put under house arrest for close to a decade by the apartheid regime, which was finally ousted in South Africa's first all-race elections in 1994.

Her grandfather, the Mahatma, spent 21 years in South Africa, where he went to practice law. He returned to India in 1914 after suffering racial abuse in South Africa.

Other delegates, like Kelly Campbell and Barry Amundson (of Peaceful Tomorrows) who lost relatives in the World Trade Center attacks, and Arnina Kashtan from Israel, had different stories to tell about their struggle for peace and non-violence.

The Peaceforce has three offices in the United States and one each in Canada and Britain, where members participate in three months of intensive training in conflict resolution.

"We are non-partisan. We don't take sides," said project director Mel Duncan.

Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the Tibetan parliament in exile, was also to deliver a speech at the convention.

Copyright 2002 AFP