The SAARC Cultural Centre and the Mahatma Gandhi Centre jointly organized the Symposium which themed itself on Non-Violence since the day the Mahatma was born - October 2 - is marked as UN International Day of Non-Violence and is dedicated to a renewal of the ideals of the great pacifist, particularly non-violence. The main event attended by many was at the Navarangahala on the evening of the 2nd, with the boys of Royal College (RC) participating.
Any public event with children playing a major role is heart-warming but nowadays has the heart-strings tugged. You watch with pride and joy the young ones doing what they have to do with self confidence; the charm of the innocence of childhood so obvious. But now, in this day, the sight of children saddens the heart since we do not know what their future is to be in this splendorous Island where ‘Only man is vile’.
That is a very valid summation. 40% and more children are malnourished and education is in the doldrums. Child abuse and cruelty to them are rampant as never before. Yet, the event on Tuesday evening with lots of children from all over the Island being celebrated on account of their art was spirit lifting. Also the reminder of what the Mahatma stood for that violence does not cease with violence, it ceases with love; and what he said: "The world’s resources are sufficient for man’s needs but not for his greed." The emphasis that non-violence ultimately brings in peace was inspiring and spirit uplifting. Admiration in full measure to the comperes of the event: two senior students of Royal College who carried the event through very competently and in English as the language should be spoken.
Tuesday’s public meeting
The chief guest Dr Rasphal Malhotra, Director General, CRRID India, distinguished invitees and other persons of the two organizations under whose joint auspices the event was held, were led in by drummers and dancers, of the College we presumed. The Venerable Olande Ananda and other religious dignitaries were already seated in the front row. The National Anthem was sung, the oil lamp lit and the junior RC choir sang lustily the inspiring song: We are family, you and I. A change from white shirts and blue trousers by the choristers to coloured shirts in all pastel and darker shades with black pants was very welcome. The inaugural address by Director/ SAARC Cultural Centre, Mr G L W Samarasinghe was followed by senior students of RC performing a Kandyan dance with verve and vigour. Prof K U Sirinanda read two messages received from many; those from the President of Sri Lanka and the Secretary General of the SAARC Secretariat.
Dr Rasphal Malhotra referred to the Mahatma and current favourable trends in his address titled: ‘Cooperative Development, Peace and Security in South Asia: focus on India and Sri Lanka’. Elimination of violence, as advised by the Mahatma, and cooperation followed to a great extent by our two countries, featured in his talk. His ideas were reinforced by a video clip prepared by the Royal College Media Unit and projected, the subject being the influence and legacy of non-violence left by the Mahatma. Dr Malhotra also mentioned that there was a banding together of youth with a resolution being adopted: Resolution of the Non-Violent Youth Force.
Ven Olande Ananda in his keynote address: ‘Relevance of Gandhian Swaraj - development model for today’ introduced personal anecdotes which drove in his message more forcefully. He started his short address by referring to the end of the Mayan Calendar on 21st December this year and predicted catastrophes which need not be contemplated on since what will be will be. He elucidated this idea with an incident in his life when he was in India during the Maha Khumba Mela which occurs every 144 years with millions gathering for the festival. He was young and ill on that day with a cold and sore feet. He asked Vinobha Bhave whether he should go witness the huge event among massive crowds. Gandhi’s disciple, Bhave, was on a vow of silence so the question was asked in writing. The reply he got on a piece of paper was: "If you want to go, go."
He mentioned he was born a couple of weeks after the assassination of Gandhi which affected even his family in Holland and was in South Africa when Mandela was released from prison. He has been in Sri Lanka since May 1, 1975. In all these events and years the messages of Gandhi have been relevant, mostly those dealing with peace and non-violence and the need for suppression of greed. He referred to Bhutan’s index – Gross National Happiness - and that freedom of expression, religion, association and a rightful place given to children are of utmost importance in any country.
Soundarie David Rodrigo took over the mike very competently in her capacity as the Deputy Director (Programmes) of the SAARC Cultural Centre to announce results of the art competition held island-wide by the Centre. The most commendable feature of this competition, in addition to its bringing in children from all over the Island and nurturing their innate artistic talent was that all participants went on stage to receive their certificates of participation, commendation and winning first, second and third places in two categories: 5 years to 13 and 14 to 19.
It was touching and prideful to see students from schools as disparate as Keridiwale Maha Vidyalaya and Colombo International School; those from big schools like Ananda and Holy Family Convent and also private academies such as Shymala School of Art, the five year tots from the Joyce Gunasekera Montessori School going on stage. The differently abled artists from the Jayasevana Special School Kotte and the Chitra Lane School received extra loud applause. Altogether 52 schools including St Patrick’s from Jaffna had encouraged their students to participate in the competition.
Dr M A Mohamed Saleem, President, Mahatma Gandhi Centre thanked all involved for a very successful art competition and the evening’s event.
The submissions to the art competition were very well displayed at the back of Navarangala. A beautiful book with all the pictures submitted, each with entrant’s name, age and school printed alongside was distributed to all the children who went on stage and to members of the public. This will surely be a souvenir to preserve. The cover had the logo: No to Violence: SAARC celebrates Non-Violence Day with the title: Painting Competition for Children, below which were three imprints of a child’s palm and fingers. Miniature flags of the eight SAARC countries formed a bottom border to the booklet.
The Island, 6 October