After reading Lanza del Vasto’s book on Vinoba Bhave (“Vinoba on the new Pilgrimage”), Mr Louis Campana joined him in the Community of the Ark, in France. Lanza del Vasto was himself a disciple of Gandhiji, whom he met in 1937 in India when he was asked by Bapu to promote non-violence in Europe.
The Community of the Ark is also known as “Order of the Western Gandhians”, and it is based on the values of Ahimsa and Satyagraha.
Campana stayed in the Community for eight years (1970 – 1978), during which time he was initiated into non-violent demonstrations and fasts organised to protest against French nuclear tests and the extension of a military camp in Larzac, France.
He lived in the Community and experienced full autonomy, as recommended by Gandhiji, studying Gandhian philosophy and Metaphysics with Shantidas (Plato, Aristotle, Saint Thomas
Aquinas). He also became a farmer at the same time and a manager of the agricultural production of the Community.
In 1978, he joined the Community of Theophany, affiliated to the Community of the Ark, and created the Mosaic Association, whose mission was to receive and care for the “Social Handicapped” people (drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, homeless). The Community welcomed between 700 and 1,000 people every year.
In 1999, Campana made his first trip to India and produced a documentary film “The Gandhian legacy today in India” which was broadcast by two French national TV channels.
In 2001, he created the Shanti Association to promote Gandhian thought through video documentaries and articles. He participated in an eight-day street fast in the weather of minus 10 degrees Celsius in front of the United Nations Assembly in New York against the threat of war against Iraq. He also produced a documentary on it: “War is not the solution, it is the problem – The meaning of Fasting”.
While in India, he participated in the World Forum 2004 in Mumbai and met with many Gandhian activists. He visited the Anandwan Community, met with Baba Amte and his sons, and produced a documentary: ”Anandwan, the joyful forest, or another world is possible” in French and English.
He also participated in various civil disobedience actions against GMO (genetically modified organisms) with Jose Bove and other French activists about the uprooting of transgenic corn. This was followed by lawsuits and voluntary appearances during the legal proceedings. His documentary on the subject “Civil disobedience: The breathing of democracy” is quite detailed.
In 2005, Campana participated in the Congress for Peace and Non-violence in Wardha and wrote the philosophical journal “Between wandering and evidence” inspired by his travels around the world.
From 2003-07, he directed and wrote in “News of the Ark”, a bi-weekly magazine of various Communities of the Ark.
An active member of CANVA, the Commission of the Community for Co-ordination of Non-violent Action, he produced the documentary film: “Outraged Africa, broken Africa, but liberated Africa?” on non-violent activists in Burkina Faso. He was behind the creation of the Shanti Orissa Burkina Association, a non-profit organisation designed to help the poor villages of Burkina by supporting landless tribal Communities, along with a project of Gandhian education for 500 children.
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He also participated in the Janadesh March organised by Ekta Parishad and led by Shri P Y Rajagopal between Gwalior and Delhi.
In January 2008, along with the Institute of Gandhian Studies in Wardha, he organised the Congress for Peace and Non-violence, which was supported by Nobel Peace Prize Adolfo Perez Esquivel. The Congress gathered 150 scholars and non-violence activists from all over the world. The main objective of non-violent movements is to plan future common actions on a large scale: training programs on non-violent strategy, the organisation of resistant movements against globalisation, finding non-violent solutions to the problems of poverty and exclusion, etc.
During the last 40 years, Mr Campana has remained faithful to the message of Peace and Non-violence, also by living a simple life.
Since meeting Shantidas, Mr Louis Campana has followed the path of Gandhian principles. Through the creation of various non-profit organisations and their activities, he has considerably extended the scope of non-violent activism and Gandhian thought in Europe. In France, the impact of his work has been very important in the non-violent milieu, where he could federate various French organisations under a single Gandhian banner.
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Many people have been inspired by Mr Louis Campana’s articles and reflections in the News of the Ark and are now initiating movements and actions in favour of non-violence and Peace. His documentaries too have garnered global attention. His work and actions now act as a model for young people to establish long-term mechanisms of non-violent resistance against repressive power and authorities.
Mr Louis Campana received the Jamnalal Bajaj Award for Promoting Gandhian Values outside India, 2008.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)
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