The Flame of Hope joined Tushar Gandhi (great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi), Rev. Joel King (nephew of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), and Gregory Foster (nephew of Coretta Scott-King) to launch A Season For Nonviolence at the International Peace Museum (IPM) in Dayton, Ohio.

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A Season For Nonviolence encompasses the 64 calendar days between the commemorative dates of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s. It is a national educational, media, and grassroots campaign dedicated to demonstrating that non-violence is a powerful way to heal, transform, and empower the lives of individuals and communities.

“Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.” -Mahatma Gandhi

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A Powerful Partnership for Peace

The theme of the exhibit and weekend events was “In Their Footsteps,” dedicated to remembering the teachings and legacies of Gandhi and Dr. King, Jr.

During Friday night’s opening ceremony, Tushar Gandhi and Rev. King called for a renewal of the practice and culture of nonviolence that were instrumental in transforming the societies of their ancestors. Gregory Foster, IPM Board members and staff, and community members also shared their thoughts on the importance of nonviolence.

Their message was amplified by the presence of the Flame of Hope, a physical flame and a living symbol to transform past suffering into peace and a bright future among all people.

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The Flame includes humankind’s prayers for peace from over 170,000 people and has been unified with the Eternal Flames of both Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., embodying their messages of non-violence and compassion.

Transformation in Action

Saturday’s program kicked off with a special Flame of Hope Unification workshop conducted by Flame of Hope ambassadors Rev. Yuzan Toyoda (Canada), Annie Bachmann (USA), and Miwa Tamamoto (Netherlands). 

The twenty-four participants were asked to explore the question: what kind of heart state creates a non-violent, peaceful society and world? Then in simple partner and group practices,they were able to directly experience peace and nonviolence as a body sensation and connect to the deeper self, others, and the world. 

One workshop participant said: “This workshop was life-changing and eye opening. Thank you for increasing our awareness on such important topics.” Another participant shared their experience: “I feel much more in tune with myself and others around me. I want to go out and help people now.”

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Embodying Peace

Saturday evening’s “In Their Footsteps” gala began with a presentation of the Flame of Hope’s mission, vision, and role as an international living symbol for humankind. The Flame of Hope was officially presented to Mr. Gandhi and Rev. King so they could add their wishes out loud publicly into the Flame. The audience of over two hundred was then invited to silently add their wishes into the Flame as well.

“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.” 

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As the Flame of Hope radiated warmth and positivity from the stage, audio recordings of key speeches given by Gandhi and King were shared with the crowd. The descendants of these peace legends, Tushar Gandhi and Rev. King addressed the crowd discussing the role they are each taking to continue the work of their ancestor.

This was followed by a panel discussion with King, Gandhi, Gregory Foster and Brian Polkinghorn, a Professor of Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution. The enriching discussion encouraged reflection, dialogue, and a collective commitment to embodying the spirit of nonviolence in our everyday lives. 

The evening included Indian dance and music, and ended with uplifting songs from a local Gospel choir. 

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Indian classical dance

A Long Legacy

Dayton, Ohio may not immediately spring to mind when one contemplates nonviolence and nonviolent action, but the midwestern town is home to the only museum in the world solely dedicated to peace and nonviolence. 

Moreover, the city has a decorated history of contributing to peace and dialogue on the global stage as it hosted the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords negotiated by Richard Holbrook at Hope Hotel on the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The Peace Accords still serve as the foundation for preserving the peaceful coexistence among the diverse ethnic communities that form the country.

Completed in 1850, Dayton’s Old Court House (which houses the IPM)  is considered one of the finest examples of Greek-Revival architecture in the nation. U.S. Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and William J. Clinton have all campaigned on the building’s storied limestone steps.

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