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May 28, 2014

Tip of the Hat to the Mahatma

On Saturday, May 31st, I will be in Secaucus, New Jersey, for the unveiling of a life-size statue of a great leader who made an indelible contribution to, among many urgent causes, animal protection – the legendary Mahatma Gandhi, father of the nation of India.  I’ll be speaking there, along with a major Indian spiritual leader, the Rev. Dada J.P. Vaswani.  If you live in or around New York and northern New Jersey, I hope you’ll consider joining me, the Rev. Vaswani, and other religious and political leaders to discuss Gandhi’s legacy of nonviolence and social justice, and its relevance to our present-day challenges with animal cruelty.

Vaswani and GandhiWe at The HSUS, through our Faith Outreach program, are committed to working with religious people and reminding them of their own longstanding scriptural and other traditions of human responsibility and compassion toward all animals. Last month, at Liberty University in southwestern Virginia, we had a showing of Amazing Grace, a movie that profiles the quest for social justice and reform pioneered by the remarkable 19th-century evangelical leader William Wilberforce, who co-founded the Royal SPCA.

On Saturday, at the event cosponsored by the Sadhu Vaswani Center of New Jersey, we’ll be announcing the new HSUS Dharmic Council, an affiliate of our national Faith Council.  The Dharmic religions, which include Hinduism and Jainism and now have more than one billion adherents, have long histories of ethical treatment of animals.  Ahimsa, or nonviolence toward all living beings, is a central pillar in these religions, and it’s just one reason why, after Humane Society International opened offices in India where these traditions are influential, we’ve seen a cascade of national animal protection policies enacted.  Gandhi, who helped create such fertile terrain for animal protection, felt that Ahimsa was the highest possible moral value and believed that it should encompass all interactions, not only between people but also between humans and animals.  Based on the principle that all life contains divine spiritual energy, Ahimsa inspired Gandhi in both his passive resistance movement against an oppressive political system and in his commitment to vegetarianism. Gandhi’s legacy of nonviolent engagement, based on the religious concept of Ahimsa, also influenced Martin Luther King, Jr., Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela, John Lennon and the Dalai Lama, and has played a powerful role in the trajectory of global events over the last century.

Gandhi’s compassion and nonviolence are values we at The HSUS admire and share, and they are so relevant for us as the United States benefits from the extraordinary Indian diaspora that includes more than three million Indian-Americans. Many are community leaders, doctors, engineers and other professionals contributing so much to our country and to India.  We look forward to partnering with them to advance animal protection values at home and abroad.

P.S. If you are interested in attending the May 31st dedication ceremony and town hall meeting, please RSVP on The HSUS website.  This event is free and promises to be both informative and inspirational.  I look forward to seeing you there.  In addition, we also have partnered with the Hindu American Seva Communities (HASC), which is hosting its fourth national conference at the White House during Gandhi’s birthday week of October 2nd.  If you would like to attend the HASC conference, which is entitled “Dharmic Dialogue:  Seva & Social Justice,” please register at the HASC’s website

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