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UN releases stamp to honour Mahatma Gandhi

By Suman Guha Mozumder
Last updated on: October 03, 2009 16:51 IST
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The United Nations released a colourful postal stamp of Mahatma Gandhi on Friday to commemorate the 140th birth anniversary of the apostle of non-violence.

The philatelic honour for Gandhi came two years after the UN General Assembly decided to observe Gandhi's birthday as the International Day of Non-violence.

The event was held at the Dag Hammarskjold Library at the UN and the speakers who paid tribute to Gandhi included General Assembly President Ali Abdussalam Treki, United States Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, Sri Lankan Permanent Representative to the UN Palitha Kohona and South African Ambassador to the UN Baso Sangqu. They spoke about the Mahatma's life and his messages which are relevant for the goals of the United Nations even today.

"Violence is all around us. No state is free of violence in some form or the other. And therefore, on this day, in order to honour the memory of Mahatma Gandhi, we must rededicate ourselves towards the paths inspired by his thoughts and reflected in his action and achievements," Kohona said while reading a statement by Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama on behalf of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation council of ministers.

He said that as the world community celebrates the day, the foreign minister of Sri Lanka has reaffirmed the importance of this day, not only for the people of the SAARC region, but for the international community as a whole.

"We reaffirm the relevance of non-violence and to secure the peace, tolerance and understanding. Mahatma Gandhi was not just as a leader of India's independence movement but a modern day inspiration for non-violent social change across the world," he said.

"The creed of non-violence is ingrained in South Asia. It is part of our civilization's heritage and traditions," Kohona added.

The US envoy spoke of Gandhi's 'lasting inspiration on millions of Americans,' especially his impact on the Civil Rights movement and how Martin Luther King Jr. was inspired by the teachings of Gandhi.

The South African envoy also expressed similar sentiments in the context of his nation, telling the 100-odd audience members how Gandhi has shaped the thinking of Nelson Mandela and leaders like him worldwide.

Almost all of them talked about the importance and relevance of Gandhi's message and teachings for the United Nations, especially in terms of meting the organisation's Millennium Development goals.

"We are issuing a New York one dollar prestige stamp that depicts an artistic depiction of Mahatma Gandhi, whose life and leadership has been an inspiration for all,"  said Robert Gray, chief of the UN Postal Administration, who also spoke at the event before the ceremonial unveiling of the stamp.

The stamp has been designed and created by octogenarian Ferdie Pacheco, a successful pharmacist and doctor, who has worked as a corner man for 12 world champions, including Muhammad Ali.  Pacheco has also served as a commentator  for NBC and won two Emmy awards. The artist was represented by his daughter Tina and granddaughter Alexis.

India's Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Hardeep Puri, who made the introductory remarks about Mahatma Gandhi and his life and times, could not conceal his surprise at the turnout for the event.  "I am so overwhelmed by the presence of so many people here this evening," he said.

Many in the audience could not find a seat and stood patiently for the hour-long event.

"It was a great event. I think it reminded all of those present here today about the need to follow the principles of Gandhi, to make this world better, that we at the UN have been striving for," one diplomat was overheard telling a fellow diplomat.

Earlier, during the day, the Indian Consulate in New York organised a brief event at the Union Square in midtown Manhattan to pay tribute to the Statue of Gandhi, with Consul general Prabhu Dayal garlanding the statue amid the pre-recorded playing of Gandhi's favorite song Vaishnava Jano To.

Video: Paresh Gandhi

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