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A boldly inspirational program to bring peace to cities, neighborhoods, homes and hearts throughout the nation began Sunday in Buffalo, as “Mahatma” Gandhi’s grandson exhorted an audience of 400 people to “work toward becoming good, loving human beings through love, respect, understanding, acceptance and compassion” – for everyone.

“How can we call ourselves civilized if we go on living the way we do without love for one another?” asked Arun Gandhi, whose grandfather was the renowned Indian peace advocate Mohandas K. Gandhi.

“We need to form a world of forgiveness, and try each day to be a better person than we were yesterday,” Gandhi said during a program called “Peace Matters” in Asbury Hall – sometimes called Babeville – site of the former Asbury-Delaware United Methodist Church.

The program, subtitled “Creating Peace in the World,” was the first in a series of “Peace Matters” presentations to be sponsored during the coming year by an organization called PeaceWeavers in cities such as Princeton, N.J., Philadelphia, Chicago, New Orleans and beyond, and returning to Buffalo next November at a time to be determined. PeaceWeavers is based in Bath.

Paula Connors, a director of PeaceWeavers, said the goal is “to break cycles of poverty and overcome the tragedy of violent crime in Buffalo, then in other cities around the nation and, eventually, around the world.”

Greg Lynn Weaver, spiritual director of PeaceWeavers, called for the creation of Peace Councils in Buffalo and in each of the other cities as “an alliance that will examine the root cause of violence and strategize a course for conscious change.”

Collaborating organizations honored during the program were People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH Buffalo) and Buffalo Fathers, whose motto is “progenitor, protector and provider to educate, restore and save.”

Gandhi, the keynote speaker, pointed out that violence is not just physical attacks such as street shootings and murders, but includes a culture of immoral behavior among families and in homes through disrespect, in violent sports that have become a national pastime, in media violence and in war itself.

“Why should sports be so violent?” he asked.

He said the depletion of the earth’s natural resources is a form of violence. “Overconsumption of food and energy is an act of violence against humanity because it deprives somebody else of having that resource,” Gandhi said.

And the treatment of women, even in today’s society, is violent, he added. “Women are not toys for the pleasure of men; they are the equal of men,” he said.

“We need to replace our culture of violence with nonviolence to achieve peace. Peace must be shared with others to transform the world and to make it better for future generations,” he concluded.

Gandhi’s philosophy of peace was influenced by his grandfather, the legendary Indian leader who professed nonviolence while living under South Africa’s apartheid and, later, in an India he helped free from rule by Great Britain. Like many Indians, the younger Gandhi was demeaned by Europeans for not being white, ostracized by Africans for not being black and subject to racially motivated violence from extremists in both groups.

Arun Gandhi said his grandfather was assassinated, his father was tortured in prison, and his nephew was shot in a home invasion. “Prejudice, hate and violence don’t help anybody,” he said, so he dealt with his grief by channeling his anger into a “personal transformation, a peaceful, nonviolent way of conflict resolution with peace in our hearts.”

In introducing Gandhi, Weaver said: “We want to support, inspire and activate peace initiatives because violence is an epidemic, and it is spreading. We are losing people to violence, and each loss is a loss to ourselves. To lose one person to violence is to lose one too many. We want to bring people together in peace and love.”

email: rbaldwin@buffnews.com