The University of Rochester will be the new home of the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, which was founded by the grandson of the Indian humanitarian to promote his ideals internationally through educational programs. Working with support from New York State Assemblyman David Koon, Arun Gandhi will relocate the institute's materials, including artifacts and books, and his headquarters to the University's River Campus.
"The University is honored to be the new home for the Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence. Its presence will enhance the studies and practice of peace and nonviolence, core values that are shared across all cultures and all nations," said University President Joel Seligman. "We are very grateful to Assemblyman David Koon for helping to bring the institute to the University of Rochester. His efforts were instrumental in making sure that the entire Rochester community will be able to benefit from Mr. Gandhi's work."
Currently located in Memphis, Tenn., the institute was founded in 1991 by Arun Gandhi and his late wife Sunanda and offers programs that teach the theory and practice of nonviolence to young people and adults. Advocating the peaceful methods that his grandfather Mohandas K. Gandhi used to secure Indian independence from Great Britain, Arun Gandhi travels across the United States and abroad as a speaker and lecturer.
"The presence of the M. K. Gandhi Institute will provide new opportunities, both academic and extracurricular, that will enrich the student experience," said Richard Feldman, Dean of the College. "The University of Rochester is delighted that Mr. Gandhi has chosen to base the institute on our campus."
University of Rochester students will be able to participate in internships at the institute. The institute's research library, which includes the 100 volumes of Mohandas K. Gandhi's writings as well as other research material, videos, audiotapes, and photographs, will be moved to the University. Arun Gandhi plans to reach out to the local interfaith community on new programming and events, which will be coordinated by a community relations officer.
"The people at the University of Rochester and in the Rochester community have been very open and welcoming," said Arun Gandhi. "The university is a place where we come to open our minds and learn of new things. I feel that we will be able to achieve much more over the next few years because everyone has been so receptive."
The M. K. Gandhi Institute sponsors two national conferences a year; offers programs for middle, high school, and college-age students; and provides diversity and nonviolence training workshops and seminars to churches, service organizations, and other interested groups.
"I consider it both a prestigious honor and an exciting occasion for the University of Rochester—and for our entire community—to have the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence relocate here," said Assemblyman Koon of Perinton. "Arun Gandhi has carried on his grandfather's legacy and established himself as one of the foremost proponents of nonviolence in the world today. To have him and the institute he founded centered here in Rochester creates an opportunity for us to make great strides in the area of peacemaking, both locally and globally."
Arun Gandhi has been a regular visitor to the University of Rochester over the past decade, talking to classes taught by Professor of Philosophy Robert Holmes, a close friend. He also has delivered several public lectures on campus, most recently last September when he discussed "Terrorism and Nonviolence—Choices for the Future." His lecture inspired several University of Rochester students to create a new student group, Nonviolent on Campus. Gandhi also has spoken at other colleges in the Rochester area.
Programs reach out to diverse audiences, groups
Other programs of the M.K. Gandhi Institute include:
Alternative Spring Break. College students attend lectures at the institute and then volunteer at local community service organizations like food banks or Habitat for Humanity.
A Season for Nonviolence. In 1998, Arun and Sunanda Gandhi organized memorial events to mark the 50th anniversary of Mohandas K. Gandhi's assassination on Jan. 30 and the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4. The 64-day period between the two days was called "A Season for Nonviolence" and included other community programs and events designed to build relationships across ethnic, racial, religious, and economic groups. "A Season for Nonviolence" has become an annual program in more than 200 cities and communities in the United States and abroad.
Behind the Prison Walls. The Gandhi Institute sponsors an annual essay contest for prison inmates, with the winning essays awarded prize money and printed in an institute publication. "It's interesting what people of violence think of nonviolence," Arun Gandhi explains.
Arun and Sunanda Gandhi
Arun Gandhi was born in South Africa to Gandhi's second son and was raised in the first of the nonviolent communities established by M. K. Gandhi in South Africa and India. In 1946, his parents sent him to India, where he lived for 18 months with his grandfather during the campaign for independence from British rule.
At 23, Arun Gandhi returned to India and became a journalist with the Times of India. He met his wife Sunanda, a nurse, when he was hospitalized in Bombay and the couple married in 1958. Together with their colleagues, they founded the Center for Social Unity, an economic self-help program to alleviate poverty and discrimination among India's poor, an initiative that has now spread to more than 300 Indian villages.
In 1987, the Gandhis came to the United States, where they founded the M. K. Gandhi Institute at Christian Brothers University in 1991. The couple moved to the Rochester area in 2004 to be closer to their daughter and her family. In February this year, Mrs. Gandhi passed away at the age of 74.