Comitê da Cultura de Paz

Lia Diskin, the Gandhian in Brazil

Reproduzimos a íntegra do artigo do embaixador da Índia para a Argentina, Uruguai e Paraguai, R. Viswanathan, publicado originalmente em seu blog.
Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary will be celebrated on 2 October this year for the the 30th consecutive year by Lia Diskin and her organisation Palas Atena in Sao Paulo. This is a commemoration with a difference. It is not a one-day affair. It is called as Semana Gandhi (Gandhi Week) and more often the celebrations go on for two weeks and some times a month. It is not a mere ritual or a show of garlanding the statue, paying eloquent homage in a comfortable hall and forgetting it till the next october. For Lia Diskin, Gandhism is a celebration and commitment throughout the year. It has become her mission in life.
Gandhi is not history for Lia. She sees his message as relevant for the future. She believes that Gandhi’s ideas and practice of non-violence are preventive remedies for the future of the Brazilian society which is facing serious problems of violence and crime. The criminalisation of young minds in the favelas (slums) is brought out vividly in the famous Brazilian film City of God (Cidade de Deus) which is based on real life stories. Lia Diskin has the firm conviction that sowing the seeds of Gandhian values among the children and youth will help to prevent the infection of their mind. The focus of the Semana de Gandhi is, therefore, children, youth and education. The venues of the events are schools, prisons, streets and public spaces. The events are organised in collaboration with educationists, intellectuals, government authorities, artists, civil society activists as well as with UNESCO.
Here are the list of their activities during the Gandhi week this year from 30 September to 27 October. ¨ The art of life consists in making of life an art ¨ is the Gandhian quote to inspire this year’s celebrations and so there are more artistic activities this time [04/10/2001, 19h, at MASP Museum].

- Drum Ensemble by the youth group Rede Beija Flor
-Words from Gandhi – talk by Hamilton Faria, poet and anthropologist
- Sketch: Gandhi receives Kasturbai’s letter in prison – actors Joao Signorelli and Meeta
- Indian Music – by Meeta Ravindra group
- Kathak Dance – by Meeta and Gyaneshree
- Play by actor Joao Signorelli who impersonates Gandhi and leads the audience through his life and ideas.
- Video-dialog by Luiz Goes who shows Gandhi videos and invites discussion
- Talking about Gandhi with mediator Joao Moris
- Poems of Rabindranath Tagore -reading by Joao Moris
- Instrumental and vocal music –by Krucis
- Culture of Peace in Education – Awareness Raising Walk
- several sessions for treatment of delinquent youth
- Indian classical dance – Silvana Duarte
- Storytelling: An Indian Tale about Shiva – Tininha Calazans
- Sumi-e painting and crafts workshop
-Talk by Egberto de Almeida Penido, a judge
- Children’s Choir
- Floral offering to Gandhi statue. The public is being invited to come by cycle and avoid car.

Lia Diskin believes that non-violence is a practice and a constant educational process. She explains this to me, ¨ Within the culture of violence in which we are steeped, we hardly notice the abuses we commit on a daily basis. Violence is not a destiny. It is a choice. This is why it is important to add in the school curriculum itself Education for Non-Violence and Living Together in harmony with others¨. She is convinced that this education will bring about a change in the mindset of people in the same way as the education on environment has made us conscious of this theme starting especially with the Rio Earth Summit of 1992.
Lia Diskin and her educationist collaborators have devised special courses for the government schools and teachers on development of ethics in their curricula and daily routine. Under this project, named as “Priceless Values and Gandhi and Non-Violence” 40,000 teachers have been trained in the state of São Paulo. They have a programme of monthly seminars called as “Values for Coexistence”. Both the projects have institutional support from UNESCO. Palas Athena is also involved in the UN “Human Safety” programme through projects such as “Open Doors” and “Peace Wants Partners”. These have been held in favelas and prisons.
Palas Atena has established Culture of Peace Committees to pursue the goals of UNESCO’s Culture of Peace Decade. This inspired the creation of the Parliamentary Culture of Peace Advisory Boards, active in the São Paulo Assembly, and in several other Brazilian cities, such as Curitiba and Londrina. These boards include representatives of the civil society, religious institutions and non-governmental organizations besides the members of the state or municipal assemblies.
Palas Atena has taken initiatives to apply Gandhian ideas in the health sector too. In partnership with the Municipal Health Department, they have trained over 5000 health professionals of hospitals and basic health units.

More information on Palas Atena in their website: http://www.palasathena.org/

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