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“Dear Mr Gandhi, …”

eventFriday, 22 September 2023

Grade Six Students of Assumption Kokusai Primary School learn how to live from the lives of famous persons in Religion class. Every year I choose four or five famous people for them to know. This year, Mahatma Gandhi was the one.

Students in our school are children of wealthy families. Japanese children have no experience of war or conflict. Seventy-six years after World War II the memories of the war have not been passed on to young families. Students may not have any background in understanding Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance movement. But today migrant workers are increasing in Japan. Gandhi’s respect for others, regardless of religion, will teach students valuable things. Grade Six is a small class with only 13 girls (Currently, 1st to 4th grades are co-educational, and each grade has 3 classes). There is a great movie of Richard Attenborough about Gandhi’s life, so I decided to show the several scenes I needed.

In the first religion class, Gandhi's experience in South Africa was used to experience being discriminated. I made the students imagine a discriminatory experience by assuming the following situation from the film. "About 100 years ago, in Country X, where many Japanese worked as coal miners, you are traveling first-class on the train with your family. Then the conductor came and ordered, "Japanese should move to the third-class." Your family didn't hear the order, so you were thrown out with your luggage at the next station. Imagine your reaction at that time and draw your face and write how you felt.”

Most likely, these children have never experienced being discriminated.This question will give them some insight into how it is to be discriminated. After that, when I showed them a picture of Gandhi, only one child knew him. After a brief introduction of Gandhi, we watched the movie about being thrown out of the train and the scene of resistance movement to burn Indian registration card.

In the second religion class, we looked at the faces drawn by the children and paid particular attention to the angry and crying faces. When people experience discrimination they do not understand, they feel anger, sadness and a desire for revenge. However, Gandhi has pursued a resistance movement without resorting to violence. In the movie, we learned Gandhi's belief that people would know the truth from the pain of their hands hitting the non-violent people. We watched the scene of Salt March and the resistance movement at the salt mill of Gandhi’s movie. In the final scene of the movie which showed in the conflict after independence, a Hindu man who is suffering from the thought of going to hell because he killed a Muslim child in revenge for his child being killed, I made the children imagine the advice given by Gandhi, after sharing with the classmate. children wrote the answer with a classmate.

  • Ask forgiveness from God from the bottom of your heart.
  • Promise from now on, never revenge!
  • Live well for the child,
  • Go to the Muslim community to apologize and try to live harmoniously with them.
  • Become a Muslim, and you console the dead boy.
  • always remember the conflict and learn from it.

 I was impressed by the fact that there were two students who wrote the answer, "Become a Muslim" because it seems similar to the advice given by Gandhi in the movie.

In the last class, I showed Gandhi's answer in the movie: "Adopt a Muslim child who lost his parents in the war and raise him as a Muslim." The answer showed a deep respect for the religion of the other person. I made the students write a letter to Gandhi. Two girls honestly wrote:

  • "Dear Mr Gandhi, you are great. I can't be like you. I've tried to get the other person to feel the same when I'm hurt."
  • “Dear Mr Gandhi, I was very impressed with nonviolence movement, but I'm just scared to stay unresisting with violence."

Mahatma Gandhi is a person who influenced many people in the 20th century.I found it is difficult for primary school students to understand nonviolence movement. However, it was good even for primary school students to learn about the greatness of Gandhi’s nonviolence and his respect for the religion and beliefs of the others.

Japan is an island country. Almost all Japanese have the same language and culture. Currently, many foreigners work and live in Japan, and through intermarriages acquired double nationality. There are also children of foreigners in Assumption Kokusai Primary School. Students will have to learn to respect others, to develop friendship and cooperate with each other. This time, Assumption's sixth graders were able to learn about Gandhi's ideals and his way of life. This will remain in their memory. I hope they will have the opportunity to know more about nonviolence and put them into action as their way of life.



Sr Eugenie Nobuko ra

Assumption Kokusai Primary School