Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy of non-violence is an enduring symbol of hope in defeating the growing number of hostile forces threatening the modern world, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said.

In a message marking the third annual International Day of Non-violence, observed Friday in honour of Gandhi’s birthday, Ban said that Gandhi understood that a powerful idea could change the world.

“He knew that individuals, working alone and together, could realise what others might dismiss as impossible dreams,” Ban said of Gandhi, whose non-violent struggle led to an independent India and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom around the globe.

“We strive, for example, to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction,” he said. “Recent initiatives and meetings, including last week’s Security Council summit on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, have improved prospects for reductions in global arsenals.”

Ban underscored the importance of sustaining this momentum, and called on the international community to press for success at next year’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference and beyond.

“The call to non-violence need not apply only to the use of deadly weapons,” he added. “The United Nations and its grass-roots partners have long campaigned to stop the human assault on our planet.”

Greenhouse gas emissions have long threatened the planet, he said, urging activists everywhere “to turn up the heat on world leaders to seal a deal at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.”

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