The International Ahimsa Foundation USA (IAF) celebrated “A Message of Lord Mahavir” on his 2618th birth anniversary and also commemorated the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, at the Consulate General of India premises, in New York, on May 7, 2019.
Over 200 guests attended the event, including Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Professor Lawrence A. Babb of Amherst College, Assemblyman David Weprin, New York State Senators John Liu, and Kevin Thomas, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
Maloney, who introduced a bill in the US House of Representatives to posthumously present the Congressional Gold Medal to Mahatma Gandhi in recognition of his promotion of non-violence, said Gandhi has been a “truly inspirational leader, historic figure”.
Gandhi was “transformational in so many ways” and an inspiration to all Americans and people across the world, Maloney said. She added Mandela and King both attributed their philosophy of non-violence and their leadership to Gandhi and both are recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal.
“Already Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King have received the Medal. It’s only right that the inspirational leader for both of them was Mahatma Gandhi and so he should receive this award,” the Congresswoman added.
Maloney, who spearheaded efforts to have the US Postal Service issue the first Diwali Stamp, urged members of the Indian American community to reach out to the Congress members and friends across the nation to co-sponsor the legislation to honor Gandhi with the Congressional medal.
“We are working to get the Senate sponsor. We must pass it this year and honor his leadership and his gift to the world,” she said, adding that, “we should all work together and have a day of National Service in this special year for Gandhi and to remember him.”
She added: “There is not enough that we can do to remember and say thank you to Gandhi for his life’s work, for his gift of non-violent ways of handling problems. Gandhi brought independence to India with non-violence and recognizing his contributions to values in America.”
Maloney added that India and the US, the world’s largest democracy and the oldest democracies, have several commonalities, share the same values and have been allies across the spectrum.
She said that paying homage to the memory and teachings of Lord Mahavir, she was not aware that one of Mahavir’s most important message is ‘live and let live.’
“This slogan is one of the most famous quotes in America,” she said.
Other keynote speakers were the Consul General of India in New York Sandeep Chakravorty, and Samani Malay Pragya and Samani Neeti Pragya of Jain Vishwa Bharati of North America.
Chakravorty said Gandhi himself was deeply influenced by the work and principle of civil disobedience of American poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, emulating it in his life.
“Gandhi was deeply influenced by Thoreau and it shows in his life and work. Our freedom fighters were also deeply influenced by the American independence movement and the Constitution,” he said.
The celebration of non-violence, ‘A message of Lord Mahavir and Mahatma Gandhi’ began with a lamp lighting ceremony.
Jain gave welcome remarks and reiterated the importance of non-violence and teachings of Lord Mahavir and Mahatma Gandhi, now more than ever before, and emphasized why and what motivated her to start the IAF organization.
Dr. Jain, the only female Indian American elected official in New York City, was recently honored by the Society of Foreign Consuls in New York, Inc. on International Women’s Day for her tireless work in the South Asian community.
Special remarks were also delivered by Jessica Schaowski, the New York City Mayor’s office representative, Weprin, Liu, Thomas and Brewer.
The guests were entertained by colorful cultural performances by artists and performers from Manglastak Rhythm Dance Academy, and Angel Shah, Saurya Doshi, Siddharth Doshi and Shiv Ajmeri. The bhajan ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’ was sung by United Nations International School, directed by Ellen Cava.
‘Ghoomar’ was presented by Rhythm Dance Academy. Artists Khushi Ojha, Jigna Ojha, Nidhi Parikh, Aditi Parikh, Krishna Patel, Jedlina Sarita, Ashmita Saha and Krisha Patel captivated the audience.
Judge Deborah Taylor of The Honorable Society of the Inner Temple presented a video telecast commentary on Gandhi.
Dr. Jain and Vice President of IAF, Dr. Raj Bhayani, honored some dignitaries, including Sadia Faizunnesa, from the Bangladesh Consulate; Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the UN Toshiya Hoshino and Mrs. Hoshino; Annavaleria Guazzieri, Head of Education Section, Consulate General of Italy; and Giampiero Biagioli, Prof. of Linguistics at Rutgers University Italian Studies.
IAF was formed in 2012 to spread the message of non-violence and peace from Jain principles to the community. The goal of the foundation has been to promote the teachings of non-violence and peace in thought and action by providing dialogue, peace-building activities, and civic engagement across cultures. The IAF Foundation hopes to encourage students and the community at large to get involved in creating a better world, according to a press release.