The Quakers and Gandhi – The Start of a Dialogue and an Uncompleted Journey

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Autumn 2004 No 15 – 01/10/2004

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Author: Vasant Kumar Bawa

Document Code: WJ15

Description: Vasant Bawa was an Eva Koch Scholar at Woodbrooke in 2003. He wanted to spend time in the Quaker library so that he could find out more about Quaker thinkers associated with India from the early twentieth century including Horace Alexander, Jack Hoyland and Marjorie Sykes. He was already working on a longer study of the relations between Gandhi and peace movements in Europe since the First World War.

I am pleased that Vasant Bawa was able to spend some time here at Woodbrooke and research the particular contribution Quakers made to the events that led up to the independence of India in 1947. This part of his research can now be published in this edition of the Woodbrooke Journal and adds another chapter to the record of Gandhi’s links with Woodbrooke. It is the view of an Indian, non Quaker and therefore provides a different perspective.

Vasant is looking for connections between Gandhians and Quakers in many areas including pacifism and spirituality. He examines the peace testimony of the Quakers as it developed after the First World War and considers the links with pacifism. At the same time he contrasts this with the approach of Gandhi’s movement with their non-violent protests and the question of a just war. Should pacifists oppose all wars or those which are unjust? With spirituality, however, he does find more similarities between George Fox’s search for the inner light and Gandhi’s search for truth. Gandhi held regular prayer meetings with people of different faiths and in this sharing of one another’s scriptures he shared in a common quest for the divine.

In his conclusion Vasant is seeking to extend the teaching of Gandhi into the twenty first century and the world of South Asia. He points out that the issues addressed at the World Pacifist Conference in 1948 in Shantiniketan and Sevagram are still on the world’s agenda today.

Judith Jenner

Tutor in Quaker Studies

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