The Gandhi International Institute for Peace, founded in Honolulu, Hawaii, held its 10th annual event in celebration of the 146th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi Oct. 2. The event was attended by over 400 locals and tourists.
The keynote speakers were President Barack Obama’s maternal half-sister and the Director of Community Outreach and Global Learning at the University of Hawaii, Maya Soetero-Ng; Hawaii Senators Suzanne Chun-Oakland, Brickwood Galuteria and Mike Gabbard; and Councilmember Kimberly M. Pine.
Dialogues were given from interfaith leaders Bishop Randolph Sykes (Orthodox Christianity), Rev. Kevin Kuniyak (Buddhism), Sister Joan Chatfeld (Roman Catholic) and Veda Das (Sanatan Dharma). Notable speakers included spiritual healer Zhi Gang Sha from China; Prabha Sankarnarayan, CEO of Mediators Beyond Borders from Virginia; and Dr. Jared Yurow from the Department of Health, Hawaii.
Dr. Raj Kumar, founder and president of GIIP, received proclamations from Hawaii Governor David Ige and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, as well as special messages from U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and U.S. Senator Brian Schatz. Kumar was acknowledged for his contributions to raising awareness about Gandhi and his teachings of nonviolence on the Hawaiian Islands and around the world.
The event began with an Indian pooja ritual and a Hawaiian blessing by Kahu Bruce Keaulani and Kaito Gakko. The Royal Hawaiian Band played the national anthems of the U.S. and India, while the Hawaii Pono’i Bollywood Hawaii Group performed an Indian classical dance. Wallen Ellingson and some children from Keiki Kani studio sang peace songs.
The event’s finale consisted of a candlelight ceremony led by former U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka and Dr. Terry Shintani from the Knights of the Orthodox Order of St. John. ‘Down to Earth’ and the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii provided free snacks and water to the audience.
In December 2014, GIIP introduced a bill through Senators Chun and Brian Taniguchi in the 28th Hawaii Legislative Session. The Senate and the House unanimously passed SB 332 to designate Oct. 2 as “Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi Day,” a day of recognition and observance, but not as a state holiday. Governor Ige signed the bill into law as Act 5 on April 9, 2015. Hawaii has become the first state in the U.S. to legally honor Gandhi.
The General Assembly of the United Nations also passed a resolution on June 15, 2007 that declared Oct. 2 the “International Day of Nonviolence.”