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Paths Toward Peace

A new book explores Gandhian thought and Quakerism to show us how both contribute to humanity’s quest for world peace.

Research  |  Aug 7, 2018  |  By UNLV News Center
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Satish Sharma is a professor of social work at UNLV and the author of Quakerism, Its Legacy, and Its Relevance for Gandhian Research. His research interests include Gandhian welfare thought; the foundations of social work and welfare; and multicultural, international, and minority social work practice. Quakerism, Its Legacy, and Its Relevance for Gandhian Research explores the history of Quakerism and Quakers, members of a historically Christian religious group who are known for their belief in humans’ ability to experience God within themselves as well as for their belief in pacifism. It then compares Quakerism to Gandhian thought—the principles of peace and freedom as conceived of by the great Indian national leader Mohandas Gandhi.

Shreesh Juyal — president of the Canadian Peace Research Association, dean of Doon International Institute, and professor emeritus at Regina University — read Sharma’s work and shared his thoughts on this contribution to the field.

Imagine a six-year-old boy sitting on the grass of a park named after Prince Singhanook — the de facto and hereditary king of Cambodia, who had earlier inaugurated the grounds — in Dehra Dun, India, just a few feet away from Mahatma Gandhi in 1946.

I was that boy, sitting there with a dozen other children, hundreds of adults standing behind us. Gandhi had a brown shawl covering his shoulders and wore an almost off-white loincloth tied around his waist. He spoke to us softly and with a smile for about an hour, while I tried to understand the meaning of the great Indian leader’s words.

Following his 1999 research project on Gandhian thought and his four-book series on Gandhi’s teachers, Satish Sharma extended his research efforts to produce his latest book, Quakerism, Its Legacy, and Its Relevance for Gandhian Research, with the objective of forwarding peace and pacifist research in their different dimensions. And although Gandhian thought and Quakerism could be misconstrued as incompatible, asymmetric belief systems in contemporaneity, Sharma shows us that the two, in fact, are similar and contribute to the same cause: creating global interconnectivity and peace.

Sharma’s book critically and comparatively examines Quakerism, which emphasizes pacifism and social responsibility, and the philosophy of Gandhi, a visionary who successfully challenged the status quo and the largest colonial empire on the planet, considering the legacies both have left for our contemporary global society. The volume is organized into sections that take readers through the foundation of the Gandhian perspective; the beginnings and legacy of Quakerism; spiritualism, pacifism, and peace more generally; Quakers’ contributions to social institutions, reform endeavors, spirituality, family, and community; and the intersection of Quakerism and Gandhian thought. It ends by offering suggestions for further research by Gandhian and other pacifist scholars.

Without sacrificing the essential elements of each institution’s distinctiveness and unique benefit to our world, Sharma’s book highlights the global significance of Gandhian thought and Quakerism — namely, the evolution of a progressive international community with an interest in social justice and peace for all. Through his close, critical analysis and assessment of these two philosophies, Sharma also shows readers how these institutions continue guiding human society more in the direction of peace and a global community consciousness.