“Peace is not going to come from the top-down, but from the bottom up”

The inspirational speech of Arun Gandhi at the High Level Forum for a Culture of Peace is a call for reflection.

Being Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson seems to imply unlimited wisdom to share with the world. At least, that is the impression Peace Boat’s interns got from listening to Arun Gandhi’s words during the opening of the High Level Forum for a Culture of Peace.


Gandhi’s speech focused on the importance of individual transformation to make collective change possible. “Each of us contribute to violence all the time. We need to learn about our own weaknesses…We don’t know what peace looks like, we don’t understand what it means…we believe that peace is the absence of war and that can’t be further from the truth”.

To illustrate this thought, he shared an anecdote about a lesson his grandfather taught him when he was a boy. Coming back from school, young Arun threw away a little old pencil thinking his grandfather was going to give him a new one. Mahatma not only refused, but made him look for the old pencil in the dark. When he asked why, his grandfather explained about how with this simple action young Arun was wasting the world resources. Not only do we commit violence against nature when we waste, but also violence against humanity through the overconsumption of limited food and resources.

“We are not aware of how many personal acts of violence we commit everyday”. That’s why to him, non violence has to start with one’s own actions. As his grandfather used to say “we need to be the change we want to see in the world”. That’s why he doesn’t believe that waiting for governments to take action towards peace is going to work, unless it comes from a deep change from society first, since governments are part of that society after all. “Peace is not going to come from the top-down, but from the bottom up”, he assured.

In the wake of the current refugee crisis, his words seem to make a lot of sense. Many countries have organized civilian groups and take the lead welcoming refugees, in this way pressuring governments to receive and do more for refugees fleeing from Syria. “When the people lead, the leaders will follow” has hence become true.


Arun Gandhi’s speech also reinforced earlier remarks by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who, invoking Mahatma Gandhi’s message and legacy to showcase the impact a Culture of Peace can have in the course of history, said: “There will be no lasting peace on earth unless we learn not merely to tolerate but even to respect the other faiths as our own.”

This post was created by Lorena Pierres (Peace Boat US intern)


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