Mahatma Gandhi - a role model for peace
by Hilary Karen
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To consider how Mahatma Gandhi used peaceful protest to bring about justice.
Preparation and materials
You will need five readers.
Optional: you may wish to play some reflective music.
Show the images of Mahatma Gandhi and ask if anyone knows the name of the man in the pictures. Ask the children to look carefully at the pictures and respond to the following questions.
- What kind of person do you think this man was?
- What clues does each picture give us about this man?
Listen to a range of responses.
Explain that this man was called Mahatma Gandhi. He was a humble man who refused to wear rich clothing or overeat. He believed that all people should be treated as equals and should have the same rights, no matter how much money they had or how important they appeared to be to other people. Explain that some readers are going to talk about Mahatma Gandhi’s life. Ask the rest of the children to listen carefully and to think about what they hear.
Reader 1: Mohandas Gandhi was born in India, in 1869. He came from a rich, upper-class family where his father was a leader in the community. His parents wanted him to become a barrister, which is a type of lawyer. As a result, when Gandhi was 19 years old, he went to England to study law. Three years later, he returned to India and tried to start his own law firm. He wasn’t successful, so he took a job with an Indian law firm and moved to South Africa to work. It was here that Gandhi began to experience racial prejudice, which led him to begin his work to show how unfair life was for some people.
Ask the children, ‘Can anyone explain what racial prejudice means?’
Reader 2: When Gandhi was alive, India was ruled by Britain. Gandhi didn’t think this was right, so when he went back to India, he led the fight for Indian independence from the British Empire. He organized non-violent campaigns that involved many people. Although each of these protests was small by itself, the fact that so many people took part in the protests had a big overall effect. Gandhi always said that the people who were protesting should do this without causing harm to anyone. He said, ‘First, they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.’
Ask the children the following questions.
- What do you think the term ‘non-violent protest’ means?
- What do you think the quote, ‘First, they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win’ means?
- Why do you think the non-violent protester has won when someone resorts to fighting them?
Listen to a range of answers.
Reader 3: One of Gandhi’s most successful protests was called the Salt March. When British officials imposed a tax on salt, some of the poorer Indian people could no longer afford to buy salt, which was vital to their diet. Gandhi decided to walk 240 miles to the coast at Dandi to make his own salt from the seawater there. Thousands of Indians joined him on his march. The march resulted in the arrest of nearly 60,000 people, including Gandhi himself. This made the British rulers realize that Gandhi had a huge influence on the Indian people and helped India to gain its independence in 1947, six months before Gandhi died.
Reader 4: Gandhi was put in prison several times for organizing these peaceful protests. Each time, the British government would release him, because the Indian people had grown to love Gandhi so much.
Reader 5: Gandhi is still a very famous leader, even long after his death. He was assassinated in 1948, on his way to a prayer meeting. People often call him ‘Mahatma’, which means ‘great soul’. It is a religious title that is comparable to ‘Saint’ in Christianity. In India, he is called the Father of the Nation and also Bapu, which means father.
Time for reflection
There are many quotes from Gandhi that encourage us to think about our own lives. Here are two of them.
- ‘Be the change that you want to see in the world.’
- ‘Nobody can hurt me without my permission.’
Ask the children to think about the meaning of each phrase. You may wish to listen to a few responses.
Thank you for the peace that many of us enjoy.
We pray for people in areas of the world where there are wars and violence.
Please help us to stand up for justice and fairness for all.
Help us to realize that each of us has a role to play in bringing peace to the world.
‘The prayer of St Francis (Make me a channel of your peace)’ (Come and Praise, 147)