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Grandson of Gandhi bringing nonviolence message to campus

HLP speaker Arun GandhiArun Gandhi, the grandson of India's legendary spiritual leader and promoter of peace, Mohandas K. "Mahatma" Gandhi, will bring his message of nonviolence to Doane College audiences Feb. 22.

Gandhi's talk, scheduled for 7 p.m. in Heckman Auditorium on the Crete campus, is part of a series of events designed to help students develop a deeper understanding of Indian culture and Mahatma Gandhi's life and influence. Hansen Leadership Program Director Carrie Petr helped select Gandhi as a guest speaker. She said his speech will be a rare opportunity for students to learn how historic principles of nonviolence and social justice have continued to spread through the efforts of the Gandhi family.

"His (Arun Gandhi's) entire life has been devoted to international community service and social justice," she said.

Arun Gandhi, was born in Durban, South Africa, in 1934, where he was demeaned because of his Indian heritage and skin color. He spent 18 months in India living with his grandfather just before India gained its independence from Britain in 1947.  While there, he experienced a tumultuous period in India's struggle to free itself from British rule. Those events and Mahatma Gandhi's teachings strongly influenced him.

At the age of 23, he returned to India because the South African government informed him that his wife, Sunanda, a native of India, would not be admitted into the country. There he worked as a reporter for The Times of India for 30 years and got involved in social issues. Together, he and Sunanda started projects to help the oppressed and abandoned children and developed economic programs that changed the lives of thousands of impoverished people.

The couple came to the United States in 1987 and in 1991 founded the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in Memphis, Tenn. In May 2008, Gandhi launched the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute in the United States to promote community building in economically depressed areas of the world.

Gandhi is the author of two books on poverty and politics in India and edited a book of essays titled World Without Violence: Can Gandhi's Vision Become Reality? He also authored a compilation titled M.K. Gandhi's Wit & Wisdom, and he and his wife collaborated on The Forgotten Woman: The Untold Story of Kastur Gandhi, Wife of Mahatma Gandhi.

In addition to Gandhi's speech, the Hansen Leadership Program is presenting the following related events for Doane students:

Feb. 15 -- Casteism and Racism. Students can gain an understanding of the caste system, an essential piece of Indian history, in this presentation from 7:30-9 p.m. in Hansen Hall.

Feb. 18 - Gandhi Screening, the Oscar-winning film depicts the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi, 6 p.m., Frees Hall Theatre.