Hundreds packed Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church on Saturday to hear Arun Gandhi, a grandson of Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi, plant his seeds of wisdom in an interfaith program.
The seventh annual Martin Luther King Jr. Interfaith Worship Service, presented by the Progressive Religious Coalition of Augusta, was headlined by Gandhi, who preached the importance of understanding and camaraderie among all religions.
“My message here in Augusta is how we need to use religion to bring people together instead of dividing people,” Gandhi said before the service. “Unfortunately, we have been dividing and killing in the name of God, which is not a part of any religion at all. We need to create an atmosphere where all of us can live together with proper understanding.”
After performances by the John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School Chorale, leaders of religions from Judaism to Islam to Christianity took turns delivering opening remarks in remembrance of the late civil rights leader.
Gandhi, who titled his message “Lessons from my Grandfather,” told stories of his grandfather and how his nonviolent ways left a profound impact on his life.
He recounted a tale of King’s visit to India, and how the experience gave him the motivation he needed to return to America to continue the fight for social equality.
“I think my grandfather’s life and Dr. Martin Luther King’s life provide good examples of how they used anger to constructively bring about justice in their countries,” Gandhi said. “We need to learn from them and adopt their methods.”
Gandhi urged people to gather more frequently so that they can better understand one another.
“Now we have to put it in practice like he said,” said Janet Johnson, of Augusta. “That’s the hardest part.”
The Rev. Sid Gates, of the Progressive Religious Coalition, said the program exceeded expectations.
“I think we’ve all been to the mountaintop,” he said. “It was just a stirring, provocative and hopeful message that transcended religious traditions and faiths. Just by surveying some of the faces, I think that everyone believes this was a worthy blessing for all.”
Before closing, Gandhi asked the audience to take his message to heart and work to make a difference in the world.
“Everywhere I go, I plant seeds,” he said. “I hope and pray that those seeds germinate and bring a crop of peacemakers.”