MAY 2020

Reflections from GGA’s Programme on Ethics, Culture and Spirituality

Blessed are the peacemakers and sustainers of life

When we set out on our journey to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Kasturba and Mohandas Gandhi in October 2019, the world was a very different place. The ashram in Phoenix, Durban, where the Gandhi family lived, was surrounded by the hustle and bustle of colourful daily life emanating from the informal settlement now surrounding it.

My guess is that Ba and Bapu would be pleased to know that their legacy continues to provide for this local community in terms of care, schooling, computer literacy and social outreach. True to the title Mahatma (Sanskrit for great soul), first ascribed to Gandhiji by the poet Rabindranath Tagore, the Gandhis as prototypical satyagrahis or soldiers of peace would surely take delight in knowing that their animus continues to permeate the air of those people living most on the margins of society, the so-called “untouchables”. But this begs the question, who are the untouchables today?

The outbreak of the Coronavirus disease in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, has changed everything. In some sense, we are all untouchable now. I’m writing this from lockdown, in isolation, along with 55 million other South Africans and hundreds of millions others confined around the world. We are masked and gloved, and exceptionally hesitant to share contact with anyone, especially with family and friends. Taken at face value, this seems to be the wrong way around, counterintuitive and highly abnormal, but this avoidance is undertaken mainly to protect our loved ones from the unknown: whether we have the virus or not and to stop transmission to them. Read more here: Gandhi Now, COVID-19 Document

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