The Words of the Ghomsi Family
Johannesburg, South Africa -- An interfaith seminar organized by the International Sufi School on August 17 and 18 on the theme: "Non-Violence Across the World: Africa's Contribution to the Dawn of a New Consciousness for Humanity," took place at the African Leadership Academy, Honeydew, Johannesburg.
The conference saw the participation of other faith-based organizations, among them the Sai Baba Organization, the Gandhi Foundation, and the Universal Peace Federation. Among the other guest speakers were Dr. S.M. Serote, representing the Minister of Basic Education; Sheikh Fadhlala Haeri, founder of the Academy for Self-Knowledge; Mrs. Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of Gandhiji; Mr. Leon Greenberg from the Sai Baba Organization; and Rev. Jean Augustin Ghomsi, Secretary General of UPF-Southern Africa.
In introducing the program, the Mrs. Nazneen and Soraya from the International Sufi School in Mauritius and England respectively introduced several peacemakers and gave the common traits that characterize them. They mentioned among others Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela (non-prophetic peacemakers) as well as Sheikh Amadou Bamba, founder of the International Sufi School, and the Dalai Lama (prophetic peacemakers).
The non-prophetic peacemakers, she said, went through three stages of awakening. First they had to accept the status quo. Gandhiji for example spent time embracing and learning the British culture, became a lawyer and dressed like a British. Nelson Mandela went to British school, became a lawyer, and his desire was to become a "Black Englishman."
The second stage is the realization of the contradiction. Gandhiji came to South Africa as a lawyer. One day he bought a first-class train ticket and as he was going to his destination, he was kicked out of the train as he was not white. He spent the night at the Pietermaritzburg train station wondering what he had done wrong to be treated that way. Mandela also went through a series of events that made him to ultimately start to question the Western values that he had embraced.
The third stage is the awakening. Here they had to decide whether to accept things as they are or fight against the injustice and the best way to do it. From the start Gandhiji decided to fight with non-violence and pacific resistance. Nelson Mandela embraced non-violence in the beginning, and then decided to take the way of violence (armed struggle) before resorting back to non-violence (truth and reconciliation) towards the end of his jail time.
The prophetic peacemakers just got the inspiration from the prophets and didn't need to go through these three stages in order to fight against injustice and evil.
Dr. Serote spoke of the effort the Department of Basic Education was doing to educate the youth, the teachers, and school governing bodies about values and combating social ills. He mentioned the different "Indabas" (colloquium for brainstorming and reflection) in 2000 and 2009 to review the content of education. Dr. Serote elaborated on how the Bill of Responsibilities was adopted in 2009 and the measures taken to help the teachers and the governing bodies to implement them.
Sheikh Haeri elaborated on human history from the big bang to the birth of humans and human consciousness. We need to realize that there are two consciousnesses, he said, the conditioned consciousness (me or I) and the ultimate consciousness (Allah or God) who is in our heart. As humans, we need to realize that in life there three fundamental powers. The first is "connectedness" (we are all connected beings). The second is "ongoingness" (everything is always moving towards eternity, the higher purpose). The third is "otherness" (we need to realize that there is always others in our life and the ultimate other is God).
He said our world is dominated by corporate monopolies with the spirit of survival (inherent conflict). Thus, studies have shown that most of the corporate top executives are psychopaths (there is a lot of stress). We need to stop seeing other than God; look in your heart for peace (God); be unified in your heart, turn away from your ego, stop accusing others.
Mr. Leon Greenberg from the Sai Baba organization shared the experience he had leaving South Africa for the first time in the 1970s to visit his master in India (as a White from South Africa, he was not allowed to enter Nairobi, Kenya, although he couldn't get a connecting flight right away) and all the challenges on the way that awakened his consciousness. He spoke of spirituality as the spirit of oneness, faith, and unity and the need for forgiveness in our lives. The first person to forgive is ourselves, he said. He guided everyone in few minutes of meditative forgiveness.
Mrs. Ela Gandhi shared some highlights in the life of her grandfather, Gandhiji. She is the daughter of the second son of Gandhiji, who was sent back to South Africa to take care of the father's projects. She first elaborated on what happened that night at the Pietermaritzburg's station where Gandhiji decided to stay and fight injustice in a non-violent way.
She shared some experiences that Gandhiji had that helped him elaborate his vision, way of life, and pacific resistance. He visited a convent where nuns live a communal life in simplicity, with no racial prejudice and doing everything with their hands. He was also influenced by the book of John Ruskin (Unto This Last), where he learned that all jobs are the same; they are there to help others; life in the farm is very rewarding. Another influence in his life was that of his wife. Although she is less known, she was the first who initiated the 1913 march where thousands of women marched against unjust laws. She was arrested and imprisoned with other women. This inspired the defiance campaign against pass laws in Bloemfontein in the same year, as well as the later Salt March.
As for his spirituality, Mrs. Gandhi said Gandhiji had a deep sense of spirituality. He studied the different religions (Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity) and saw only similarities in them. She concluded by explaining two projects that Gandhiji did in order to fight poverty in India in those days. The first was the Salt March that resulted in people producing their own salt and then the spinning of cotton to produce their own clothing.
In his intervention, Rev. Jean Augustin Ghomsi, introduced the Universal Peace Federation as founded by the Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon in September 2005 in order to complement the work of the United Nations and bring about world peace. He said the main characteristic of UPF is the recognition of God as the real source and instrument of peace. Humans need to recognize that most conflicts have a spiritual basis and that without first accepting the preeminence of the spiritual reality, we can never achieve world peace.
He continued by describing the mind or spirit as more important that the body that we see and touch. He gave two examples to show the importance of the spirit. When one is awake, the body seems strong and firm, the bones seem to be the ones keeping us straight and firm. When one is sleeping, the body becomes like a piece of boneless meat; you can't stand straight and the head collapses as if the neck has become boneless. Why? Because when you are asleep the spirit leaves. The same situation can be seen when one is drunk. Why can't a drunkard walk straight? Because alcohol has the effect of disrupting the relationship or the connection between body and spirit. So, he said, we need to know that what make us stand strong, what make us work straight is the invisible mind or spirit not the bones or the body that we see.
He then went on to introduce Father Moon's teaching about the three stages of human life and their purposes. He said the purpose of life of nine months in the womb (a watery environment) is to prepare the baby for the life of around 100 years in the physical world (an air environment) and the purpose of life in the physical world is to prepare us for the eternal life in the spiritual world (a love environment). He spoke at length of the need for parents to be watchful from the conception of their child to his/her birth, being alert to the mother's thoughts, the music she listens to, the books she reads, and the environment in which she lives since all these affect either for the good or bad the development of the child in the womb. Children with lung or heart problems will surely not live long on earth. The same applies to life on this physical plane. Because we are destined to enter a world where love is the air, we need to develop our ability to love while we are on earth. Loving God, our fellow human beings and the creation will lead us to higher realms of the spirit world, while a self-centered life, abusing others and holding onto hatred, will lead us to hell. Rev. Ghomsi said according to Father Moon, it is not God, Jesus, the Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him) or any other religious founder who will determine where we will go after death; it is we ourselves depending on how we have spent our lives here on earth.
According to Father Moon, when we die we go through the "mirror judgment" where we watch (with all those relatives or friends who have come to welcome us) a video recording of our whole life. Not only do we see what we have done but also we feel the effects our actions have caused to others. The spirit world is a world of complete transparency, where all the hidden secrets are exposed, all the masks are removed. Husband and wife will discover the hidden secrets of one another and may part ways after the video.
If we knew the reality of the spirit world, Father Moon says, we would not commit crime or sins on this earth!
At the end of Rev. Ghomsi's talk the copies of the new book by Sheikh Aly N'daw, Sufi Master and Head of the International Sufi School, School of Peace and Service, were offered to the different speakers just before the master of ceremonies guided everyone to the library for the launch of the new book. Rev. Ghomsi offered copies of Father Moon's autobiography, As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen, to Dr. Serote, Mrs. Ela Gandhi and Mrs. Nazneen.
There was a power outage that prevented Mrs. Gandhi and Rev. Ghomsi from using the microphone and podium. The public was entertained by songs from the Sai Baba Youth Choir and the International Sufi School choir.
Participants expressed appreciation for all they had learned from all the different presentations.