meeting between Benedict XVI and Mahatma Ghandi’s grandson at the interreligious meeting in Assisi
Note: This is a part of an article that appeared on vaticaninsider.lastampa.it.
Ghandi’s grandson and biographer, arrived in Assisi from the American state of Illinois, where he works as a Professor at the university. The Indian “Father of the Nation” would have liked the “spirit of Assisi”, Rajmohan Gandhi, who was also present at the first interreligious meeting convened 25 years ago, in 1986, by John Paul II, in the world’s capital of peace. Accompanied by his wife, Usha, he visited all the places he had been to during the first pilgrimage to the stronghold of pacifism. His grandfather Gandhi, did not have a syncretistic vision of religions. Instead, he sent Hindus, Muslims and Christians to penetrate and practice their faith, before thinking about embracing another one.
Educating religions to open up to the great common truths, but starting by rediscovering their own tradition. Gandhi’s mission was not to politicise religion, but to spiritualise politics. This is why he wanted to link daily actions taken in public life, to morality. The return of Ghandi’s grandson to Assisi represents a perfect link between Mahatma’s interreligious ideal and that of the meeting convened by Benedict XVI. According to the prophet of “nonviolence”, the best men always accept the best teaching, no matter what era or place they find themselves in: in religion, in morality, in culture and in the lives of individuals. Searching for the truth is a natural human aspiration, a result of the intelligence of the human mind. Consequently, all religious founders had a pure motivation and their teachings are a great resource for human happiness.
Thus, Gandhi did not maintain that all religions needed to be united, nor that all human beings must study and practice all religions. But “people should not see religions as contrasting one another or as untouchable, but rather, as resources of happiness.” Whenever the name of a religion becomes synonymous of destruction, this does not happen because of the religion or its founder, but because people misunderstand the meaning and practice of religion. This was the essence of Gandhi’s words in the past and this is the essence of Joseph Ratzinger’s message today.