George Mason University Korea and Yonsei University's United Graduate School of Theology held a joint international symposium to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's birth. The two-day event was held at Yonsei University's Songdo International Campus and Mason Korea from October 1-2. The symposium entitled "Gandhi’s 150-year Legacies: Peacebuilding from Asia and the West" was co-hosted by Mason Korea, the East-West Theological Forum, and the Indian Embassy in Seoul.
The symposium reflected on Gandhi's teachings, which are deeply rooted in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity and emphasize the philosophy of harmony and peace. Born on October 2, 1869, Gandhi is considered a founding father of India. During British colonial rule, he started a nonviolent resistance movement in South Africa against racism and achieved his country's independence by leading a non-cooperative movement against Britain after World War I, but was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic. “Gandhi is a teacher who has shown true humanity beyond the barriers of religion," said Soo Young Kwon, President of Yonsei University's United Graduate School of Theology. "This aligns with the spirit of Underwood, the founder of Yonsei University, who brought the doctrine of God’s providence to Korea."
The first day of the symposium was held at Yonsei University’s Songdo Campus and began with an opening convocation with welcoming remarks by The Honorable Sripriya Ranganathan, the Indian Ambassador to Korea; Geo-Sung Kim, Senior Secretary to the President for Civic and Social Affairs; Dr. Yong Hak Kim, President of Yonsei University; and Dr. Robert Matz, Campus Dean of Mason Korea. After the convocation, a memorial ceremony for the statue of Gandhi, which the Indian government donated to Korea and Yonsei University to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Gandhi's birth, was held at the Veritas B building.
Lester R. Kurtz, who teaches religion and sociology at Mason Korea, delivered the keynote speech entitled "Gandhi's Global Legacies of Nonviolence,” wherein he stated that, "Historically, human beings have solved conflicts through war by force or dialogue seeking peace.” He added, “The first method was efficient, but violence and sacrifice followed, and the second was inefficient. Gandhi called the co-existence of the two "Fight with Peace" and practiced it.” The address was followed by a Peace Concert and a special presentation by a member of the founding family of the Gandhi School in Korea.
The second day of the event, which was held at Mason Korea, began with a special online greeting by Arun Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi's grandson. The keynote speech was delivered by Dr. Liu Cheng, Professor of History at Nan-Jing University, China. "It is important to understand the impact that Gandhi and the British Empire had on each other; ultimately, the revolution for peace needs to be completed through the process of complete reform,” he stated. There was also an interactive session where the audience had a chance to directly pose questions to Arun Gandhi via video conference, including his personal experience growing up as the grandson of the mahatma.
Several other speakers also presented their topics. Dr. Egon Spiegel of the University of Vechta in Germany, spoke on the theme of "In Between the Third: The Power of Truth – Satayagraha,” in which he explained, "Gandhi was perhaps more influenced by Christianity than Hinduism; he believed in the power of truth as a third force for creating peace, and rather than pursuing peace, he sought to be the peace.” Dr. Eric Chinje, Visiting Scholar at George Mason University, spoke on the topic of "A View from the South.” Dr. Young Min Paik of Yonsei University spoke on the theme of "Gandhi and Jesus for Peaceful Coexistence of Korea,” stating that "Just as Gandhi was greatly influenced by the path of peace, his ideas on peace greatly influenced Martin Luther King Jr., who led the anti-racism movement in the US; Desmond Tutu, the first Black Anglican Archbishop known for his efforts to resolve and end apartheid, and Suk-Hun Ham, the Korean translator of Gandhi's autobiography.” Dr. Hyunyoung Cho and Dr. Arthur Romano of Mason Korea also presented their topics. The symposium appropriately concluded with an open discussion on where and how to proceed from here on.
October 02, 2019