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In Memoriam: Dr. Arun Gandhi

May 2, 2023

The Parliament of the World’s Religions is saddened to report that Dr. Arun Gandhi—grandson of Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi, peace activist, and Parliament luminary—passed away on Tuesday, May 2nd in Kolhapur, India.

Arun Gandhi, a grandson of Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi, was born in Durban, South Africa during the apartheid years. Very early in his life, he became a victim of color prejudice — hated and beaten by Whites because he was too black; and by Blacks, because he was too white. This humiliation resulted in extreme anger and a desire for revenge. At age 12, Arun was taken to India to live with his famous grandfather and learn ways to cope with his anger and violent reactions. He learned some very valuable lessons during the two years that he spent with his famous grandfather. Arun said: Those two years changed my life for the better.

Arun served as the President of the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute until his death taking the message of nonviolence all over the world and, to rescue and train children living in poverty so that they can break the oppressive cycle that crushes them generation after generation. The Institute is now catering to the needs of almost 1,000 children.

Arun also started the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in 1991 originally based at the Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee, and moved in 2008 to the University of Rochester, NY. The Institute has programs for inner-city children, inmates of correctional facilities, and poor families living in the inner city of Rochester. The Institute also teaches nonviolence to students.

During his long and checkered life in India Arun and his late wife, Sunanda, started self-help economic programs for the impoverished and oppressed sections of society which were designed to rebuild the crushed self-respect and self-confidence of the victims of poverty. These programs still continue to grow on their own momentum. Arun and Sunanda also found loving homes for 128 newborn babies abandoned by unwed mothers. These children are now grown-up and have their own babies and now all of them consider Arun to be their spiritual father.

Gandhi, according to Nelson Mandela, came to South Africa as a man and went back to India as a Mahatma. Both countries played a significant role in the life of Mahatma Gandhi. Hate gave rise to love and violence gave birth to nonviolence. But what is nonviolence and what does it mean now, 67 years after Gandhi’s death.

Dr. Gandhi served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, a featured luminary at numerous Parliament Convenings, and the winner of the Peace Award at the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions. Gandhi had been announced as a featured luminary at the upcoming 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, USA where he would be addressing the theme of freedom, democracy, and human rights.

We extend our most heartfelt condolences to his family, his global community, and the global peace & interfaith movement. May he rest in peace.