Gandhi and Khashoggi: Soldiers of Peace


Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra – TRANSCEND Media Service

21 Jan 2019 – On October 2 was born Mahatma Gandhi. On October 2 was also killed Jamal Khashoggi. There is one common element though 149 years separated both the events–Gandhi and Khashoggi fought injustice through peaceful means. They were harbingers of nonviolent social change but met a violent death.

While Gandhi in the 20th century fought colonialism and sought to change the heart of the ruler through nonviolent resistance, Khashoggi in the 21st century sought to change the course of the Arab world through his journalism. While Gandhi emerged a popular leader for nonviolent social change in the 20th century, Khashoggi through his media activism drew a mass following for the cause.

Gandhi and Khashoggi were killed but they remained immortal as their actions evoked powerful and enduring forces of nonviolent social change. While Gandhi remained an inspiration for nonviolent struggle all over the world, the death of Khashoggi shook international politics and many nations are still recovering from its after effects.  The question, however, remains – what lessons we learn from the work and death of these peace agents, and how we use those lessons to change our world. Do we need more such deaths to realize that we live in a violent world?

2019 marks the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The United Nations declared October 2 as the International Day of Non-Violence. While marking the beginning of the anniversary celebrations, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, said, “at a time of protracted conflicts and complex challenges, Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence remains an inspiration. At the United Nations, a world free of violence – and the resolution of differences through non-violent means – is at the core of our work.”  Though the UN has remained a moral torchbearer, the policies of nations have been increasingly at odd with its founding principles. The death of Khashoggi is a testimony to the fact that the world has become more violent.

Gandhi was a critic of the principle of an eye of an eye and argued that such a principle would make the whole world blind. He preached and practiced the principle of nonviolence. He famously asserted when what we think, we say and we act are in harmony there is true peace. It needs more courage to be a ‘soldier of peace’ than to wield weapons and kill. He wrote in Young India, a weekly paper founded by him, on 6 October 1921, “As our movement is avowedly peaceful, it is much better even to drop sticks (as weapons). Soldiers of peace that we are, we should copy the ordinary soldier as little as possible whether in point of uniform or otherwise.”

Hypocrisy, particularly the disconnect between moral principles and politics – the hardcore realism, has not actually worked in the human world. In this era of globalization and borderless world, an event in a small place affects the wide world. A moral perspective is necessary for the survival of human society and the world. Khashoggi, like Gandhi, believed in nonviolent social change. Even after death, their voices appeal to us and call us for action. Their voices echo in our heart and call us to play a transformational role in our society.

Gandhi and Khashoggi were soldiers of peace and laid down their lives for a peaceful social change. Both of them fought against religious fundamentalism. Religion in its true spirit invokes peace and love in the adherents, but as we see in this tumultuous world, religions have often been used for narrow goals. This is amply visible in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in India, in the Middle East, in Iraq, and many other parts of the world. The rise of religious right parties and the suppression of saner voices like Khashoggi give ample evidence that we live in a dangerous time.

Gandhi and Khashoggi were not just isolated individuals living for themselves. They represented the saner voice of humanity and lived within us. They represented the universal human morality that stood against violence and oppression. Instead of confining these soldiers of peace to streets and memorials, we will do better service to them by learning from their lives and defining our role for building a peaceful world.


Dr Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra is a member of the TRANSCEND Network, Director of the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Non-Violence, Human Rights and World Peace at Hindu University of America in Florida, and a Fellow at the Center for Peace, Democracy and Development, University of Massachusetts Boston. He is an Indian commentator and his areas of interest include conflict transformation and peacebuilding in South and Central Asia. His edited book Conflict and Peace in Eurasia was published by Routledge in 2013. His forthcoming coedited book is Gandhi and the World.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 21 Jan 2019.

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