Burgemeester 150e geboortedag Mahatma Gandhi
Toespraak burgemeester Jan van Zanen
Wittevrouwenstraat 7bis, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial, 2 oktober 2019
Ambassador Rajamony, dear Gurnani family, dears hosts of the University, dearest and befriended representatives of the Indian community in the Netherlands, dear all,
Today, we celebrate the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. We honor the man who can be considered father of the world's largest democracy. We remember his valuable and universal message of nonviolence. We commemorate Mahatma Gandhi with his bronze statue. This is one of the many Gandhi statues you can find all over the world: from Australia to Argentina… From Canada to China… And from Italy to – of course – India… Mahatma Gandhi is honored all over the world. I am curious how all these places look like today, on this very special day. Do people gather around his statue, like here – in Utrecht? Are people garlanding his statue with beautiful flower wreaths, like here – in Utrecht? Are people delivering speeches today, reminding us of how important Gandhi’s message of nonviolence still is?
It should be the 2nd of October every day… Isn’t this the world we all want to live in? The peaceful world… The ideal world… But we all know, the ideal world does not exist. Violence is everywhere. In countries far away…and also in Utrecht, our own City of Peace. Fights on the streets, on a Saturday night out… A quarrel between neighbours … Children, fighting on the schoolyard… Or bullying each other on social media …
Sadly, Utrecht experienced a brutal act of violence in our city on the 18th of March. We could not believe this was happening in our city. We were shocked. Frightened. And deeply sad.
But what happened next, was the best response man can give to such brutal violence. Thousands of people walked a silent march together… To mourn together… To honor the victims together… That evening in March, the people marching together, delivered one, silent, but strong message: violence must never have the last word.
To me, seeing so many people together that evening, peacefully and dignified, is the proof Gandhi’s message of nonviolence is still strong, present and very important. His message gives us hope. His message is what unites us, dear all, gathered here today so near to the Gandhi statue. His message unites all the people who are gathering today at the many Gandhi statues all over the world. Cynical people might say, this is just a bronze statue… To me, this statue symbolizes the power of the nonviolent. This statue of Mahatma Gandhi is inspiration. He inspires us to keep working on a nonviolent world together. Everywhere. Every day.
And that is why our City, dear all, the City of Peace, the City of Human Rights, is honored to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birthday and the International Day of Non-Violence with conviction today. And to celebrate Mahatma Gandhi's important message of nonviolence - every day... Thank you very much.