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Speech by Marc A. Huybrechts, Honorary Consul General of India in Antwerp on occasion of the Gandhi Jayanti 2014

Antwerp, October 2, 2014

Speech by Marc A. Huybrechts

Honorary Consul General of India in Antwerp on occasion of the Gandhi Jayanti 2014

Dear Friends and Fellow Citizens,

On this special day of celebration we are gathered here, not far away from the Albert Park where the bust of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi stood for so many years, as a lightning star and symbol to all of us, till on a sad night it was stolen by some irresponsible and criminal people.

Our answer to the Indignation we all felt at the time caused by this outrageous brutal theft was clear and simple: “They may have stolen his statue or bust, but they will never be capable of taking away his message!

Today, we are here in the first place, to pay respect to the father of the Indian Nation.

Indeed, through his relentless resolve and solid determination Bapu got freedom for India and its citizens, and obtained the restoration of the sovereignty of India and the end of the colonial rule.

His strategy and political actions were always based on the sacred principle of non violence, the- „Ahimsa“- and the defense of the truth!

And yes, Bapu suffered a lot as he was jailed on many occasions , he was humiliated but he kept his dignity under even the most painful circumstances.

To be sure, Bapu paid a heavy price for living up to his noble principles but the price he paid was worth it: the ultimate independence of India!

The very sad outcome was that the „ Prince of Peace and the advocate of nonviolence, fell himself victim to an act of extreme violence: the murder of Bapu left the world in grief.

This is what Jawaharlal Nehru had to say right after the assasination:

„Friends and comrades, the light has gone out in our lives, and there is darkness everywhere, and I do not quite know what to tell you or how to say it.

Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the father of the nation, is no more.

Perhaps I am wrong to say that; nevertheless, we will not see him again, as we have seen him for these many years, we will not run to him for advice or seek solace from him, and that is a terrible blow, not only for me, but for millions and millions in this country“

Bapu became the inspiring light for he Indian Nation, and each year we commemorate his birthday and his demise.

But the „Mahatma”- or the Great Soul-was not only a beacon for India but also for the entire civilized world.

The United Nations made the second of october the “International Day“ devoted to nonviolence.

Is Bapu also an inspiring light for this city of Antwerp and its citizens ?

Is Gandhi still relevant in our modern society?

Is the message of nonviolence still relevant and actual?

In this cospmopolitan city, with some 180 various nationalities, with so many religions and cultures present, yes, Gandhi’s message is more than needed.

Regretfully, we live in a world where acts of terrorism and savagery have become the killing weapons and the cynical strategy to obtain a political result. Acts of barbarism are never to be accepted and the message of Mahatma Gandhi, who advocated nonviolence is indeed still very relevant.

Indeed ,in the cosmopolitan city of Antwerp there are so many religions present that we may be reminded of the words of Gandhi, who was asked about his religion.

Mahatma Gandhi was indeed asked whether he was a Hindu and that is what he replied:

„Yes I am,but I am also a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, and a Jew.“

How applicable is this answer in the Antwerp environment!

Mahatma Gandhi showed us the way to pay respect to the various religions and cultures in our society; he advocated a harmonious living together by all people and with all persons from all walks of life.

That message is still valid and yet every day we experience incidents where on account of a lack of respect and consideration, people are involved in bitter clashes.

We should all seek inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi so as to bring peace and harmony in our personal lives and to confront others with whom we deal with that universal message of peace..

Marc A.Huybrechts

Hon.Consul General of India

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