Unusual Compatriots: Gandhi

Gandhi was the leader of the Indian National Movement against British rule.

Gandhi is widely considered to be the father of his country.

His doctrine of non-violent protest to achieve political and social progress has been very influential.

Gandhi was born on 2nd October 1869 as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi but was usually known as Mahatma (great soul). Born in Porbandar in Gujarat. After university he went to London to train as a barrister.

Gandhi returned to India in 1891 and two years later in 1893 he accepted a job at an Indian law firm in Durban, South Africa.

Gandhi was appalled by the treatment of Indian immigrants there and joined the struggle to obtain basic rights for them.

During Gandhi’s twenty years in South Africa he was sent to prison many times.

When my wife Kay von Ray was a little girl of six she saw him being taken to the near by prison on one of those many occasions when he was sent to prison.

Gandhi was influenced primarily by Hinduism, by Jainism and Christianity.

Gandhi was also influenced by writers such as Tolstoy and Thoreau. Gandhi developed the Satyagraha (‘devotion to truth’), a new non-violent way to redress wrongs.

In 1914 the South African conceded to many of Gandhi’s demands.

Shortly afterwards Gandhi returned to India. In 1919 (the year I was born) Britain interned people suspected of sedition.

The Rowlatt Axe prompted Gandhi to announce a new Satyagraha which attracted followers.

A demonstration against the Axe resulted in the Amritsar Massacre by British troops.

By 1920 Gandhi was a dominant figure in India politics. He transformed the Indian National Congress and his programme of peaceful non-cooperation included boycotts of British goods and institutions, leading to arrests of thousands.

In 1922 Gandhi himself was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. He was released after two years and withdrew from politics, devoting himself to try to improve Hindu and Muslim relationships which had worsened in 1930.

Gandhi proclaimed a new campaign of civil disobedience in protest at a tax on salt, leading to thousands on a ‘March to the sea’ to symbolically make their own salt from sea water.

In 1931 Gandhi attended the Royal Table Conference in London, as the sole representative of the Indian National Congress, but resigned from the party in 1934 in protest at its use of non-violence as a political expedient.

Gandhi was replaced as leader by Jawaharial Nehru.

In 1945 the British government began negotiations which culminated in the Mount Batten Plan of June 1947.

Two new independent states. India and Pakistan were formed, dividing along national religious lines.

Massive inter-communal violence marred the months before and after independence.

Gandhi was opposed to partition and fasted in an attempt to bring calm in Calcutta and Delhi.

On 30 January 1948 Gandhi was assassinated in Delhi by a Hindu fanatic.

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Many years later, in 1946 I married Kay who was at that time helping to run Concorde Missionary Home in Musgrave Road near the racecourse and a tiny grass airfield in Durban.

I heard how Ghandi had, during his twenty years in South Africa – mostly in Durban, had somehow become acquainted with two ladies who were involved with Concorde Missionary Home. They were very godly ladies and Mahatma Gandhi was evidently very impressed with their Christianity, he evidently felt that they lived the life a Christian should live which he did not have seemed to have experienced before. He became particularly impressed with the beatitudes. And evidently decided to live his future life as a close follower of the Lord Jesus Christ teaching in those chapters in Matthew Chapters 5 – 7 and was challenged to embrace them. To the best of his ability.

One may ask why he did not take on the name, ‘Christian’. I can only surmise that he felt very strongly that Christians were by enlarge only Christians in name. It’s a great pity that he did not seem to have found many many other Christians of the same ilk as those two ladies, but there it is.

What a pity that he only became known as the founder of India without people of the world realising that It appears to have stemmed mainly from his association with those two great Christian ladies and through them becoming enthralled with the teaching of the Beatitudes.

It appears that there were no other Christians that crossed his path who were able to carry on the discipleship training that he had been under through those two ladies.