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By Kate Bramson
Journal Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Inside Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Armenian Church, collages of Mahatma Gandhi photographs and teachings on Sunday afternoon carried a message of nonviolence — a message that drew about 100 people to gather and commemorate the peace leader whose name meant "great soul."
"You must not lose faith in humanity," one of Gandhi's quotes began in that display. "Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty."
At the front of the room, people took turns singing, speaking and sharing other enduring messages from Gandhi.
Sitting in the front row, awaiting his turn to speak, was North Providence High School freshman George Saban Jr. After he won second place in a writing contest sponsored by the University of Rhode Island last year, to explore the teachings of Gandhi, the India Association of Rhode Island invited him to read his essay Sunday at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Day tribute.
In his essay, Saban said perfect peace might not be achievable. But he saw small steps that could be taken in the schools to help shift society toward more peaceful methods.
One of his ideas was to create what he calls "the conversation space." He envisioned a room with a table, three chairs and a flower in the middle of the table that might influence "the minds and attitudes" of those needing to use the space. When students have disputes, he envisioned them sitting at the table, with a teacher as an arbiter in a distant corner. "The students will flush out their differences and come up with their way of resolving or compromising their issues," he wrote.
The commemoration by the India Association of Rhode Island continued, set for the day after Gandhi died in 1948 — and the same date, Jan. 31, on which he was cremated.
"You've got to love Rhode Island — a Gandhi celebration in the Armenian Church," U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline said soon after he arrived to help celebrate.
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