All Change…

On the 6th of December, 1992 racial riots broke out between Hindus and Muslims in the city of Ayodhya, in India. More than 2,000 people died in the violence that followed. 

Forty kilometres away in the city of Lucknow, hundreds of school children – the students of the City Montessori School – and their parents took to the streets singing and carrying posters with slogans like: ‘We should live in unity.’ ‘The name of God is both Hindu and Muslim.’ ‘God is One, Mankind is One.’ ‘All Religions are One.’

The governor of Lucknow asked the City Montessori School to provide a meeting place for the heads of all the city’s religions. Every day while the violence raged nearby, these leaders of the religious community held public meetings at the school surrounded by children singing about unity.  And it worked. Lucknow completely escaped the violence.

Could it be that these simple, earnest demonstrations by schoolchildren and their parents stopped an outbreak of violence?

Well, it helped but the many years of work behind it probably deserve most of the credit.

In 1959, Mr. Jagdish Gandhi and Mrs. Bharti Gandhi borrowed $10 and founded the City Montessori School. For over forty years the school has focused not only on academic excellence but also on educating children to be better people. As well as academic subjects, the pupils also focus on defining values and learning about peace: students follow lessons in world citizenship, social responsibility, peace issues and religious values. Every CMS-event starts with a prayer for peace in the world.

Parents, grandparents and teachers all work together to teach the children respect for others, how to be of service to humanity and the importance of unity in diversity.

It’s a popular and successful idea.  On August 9th, 2010 there were 39,437 pupils enrolled for the 2010-2011 academic year, making the City Montessori School the largest private school in the world.

This incident in 1992 suggests something we often don’t realise – it suggests that the real power in the world lies in the commonplace. In the ordinary relationships of the home and the playground and the classroom and the community.  Places we all live and work. Places in which we all have power and influence.

Never think that small, seemingly insignificant actions of kindness and justice and love are wasted.  They may not seem like they can influence the world but they are all that can really bring about change.

If you doubt it, just remember that nobody was hurt in Lucknow in 1992, while a short distance away the neighbours were killing each other.

The best advice for how we can effect this simple, attainable and, ultimately, powerful change was given by the most famous Indian of all-time who said –

Be the change that you want to see in the world.*