Lia Diskin, a Gandhian in Brazil
Completely and selflessly devoting her life to the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, Lia Diskin, an Argentine woman and a life-long follower of the message of non-violence, will once again observe Gandhi Jayanti in Brazil this year, as she and her organisation have been doing for the past 30 years.
The Gandhi Jayanti celebration in Sao Paulo is not a one-day affair. It is called "Semana de Gandhi" (or Gandhi Week). Sometimes the celebrations go on for two weeks and sometimes even for a month.
For Diskin, Gandhism is a celebration and commitment. It is her mission in life. It is not a mere ritual or a show of garlanding the statue, paying eloquent homage in a comfortable hall and forgetting it till next October.
Diskin believes Gandhi's ideas and the practice of non-violence are preventive remedies for the future of Brazilian society, which is facing problems of violence and other crimes, according to Indian Ambassador to Argentia R. Viswanathan.
She believes that sowing the seeds of Gandhian values among children will help prevent "infection of the mind".
The focus of the Gandhi Week is, therefore, children, youth and education. Programmes will be held in schools, prisons, streets and public spaces.
Diskin says non-violence is a constant educational process.
"Within the culture of violence in which we are steeped, we hardly notice the abuses we commit on a daily basis. Violence is not a destiny. It is a choice. This is why it is important to add in the school curriculum itself education for non-violence and living together in harmony with others," she says.
Diskin and other educationists have designed special courses for government schools and teachers on how to develop ethics in their daily routine.
Under the project named "Priceless Values and Gandhi and Non-Violence", over 40,000 teachers have been trained in Sao Paulo.
With institutional support from Unesco, the Palas Atena organisation is also involved in the UN "Human Safety" programme.
Palas Atena has taken initiatives to apply Gandhian ideas in the health sector too. In partnership with the municipal health department, it has trained over 5,000 health professionals.
Diskin also got the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi translated in Brazilian Portuguese script by four eminent scholars. The auditorium of Palas Atena is called the Mahatma Gandhi Auditorium. The organisation's library has a large collection of books on Gandhi. It also has a publishing house, with many titles on Gandhi, non-violence, culture and peace.
Diskin's organisation teaches yoga, meditation and Indian classical music and dance.
She is also the author of many books on education, peace, ethics and culture. Her book, "Paz, como se faz?" (Peace, how to make?) has been adopted by schools in six Brazilian states and has sold over 500,000 copies.
Born in Argentina, Diskin and her husband Basilio Pawlowicz moved to Sao Paulo in 1972. They established the Palas Atena for social service and study of philosophy, and also run an orphanage in Sao Paulo called Casa de Pandavas (House of Pandavas).
Diskin lives a simple and modest life with a strict Gandhian discipline. She is a vegetarian.
Her interest in Gandhi started early as a child after she read books on him. She was inspired by his autobiography and was totally taken by the idea of a person with such commitment to truth.
"I never found a philosopher with such earnest desire and serious sustained effort to translate truth into daily life," she said.
Diskin was an invitee at the Satyagraha centenary celebrations in India in 2006. She was among many global personalities invited in 2007 by India to address the UN which declared Oct 2 as the International Day of Non-Violence.
Diskin was honoured with the Jamnalal Bajaj award in January 2011 for her service to people.