Among many initiatives established by RI President Sakuji Tanaka in his year of Peace Through Service, are the signature Peace Forums that are being staged over the course of the Rotary year.
The Peace Forums will achieve far more than encouraging and promoting peace. They will also promote awareness of Rotary, what it stands for and what it does.
The venues chosen for these forums are remembered for the devastation that was suffered in World War II and in many ways they define our images of war. Berlin, where the first forum was staged and Hiroshima, which will be the venue for the last forum, were all but obliterated. Hiroshima and another Japanese city, Nagasaki stands as stark testimony to the terrors of nuclear warfare. The death and destruction experienced by those two cities by small capacity nuclear weapons (by today’s standards) should be all the persuasion that the human race needs to ensure that this never happens again.
The second Peace Forum was staged in Honolulu, whose destruction was limited compared with Berlin and Hiroshima but transformed World War II into a truly global conflict.
Importantly, although each of the cities selected was heavily affected by the events of World War II, their rebuilding and transformation means that they also represent the healing power of sustainable peace between nations. That is what Rotary is about.
Last week your District announced the support that will be provided to clubs to assist a significant group of younger people to attend the Peace Forum in Hiroshima. I know that many clubs are keen to propose suitable candidates to be selected for this team but I would encourage all clubs to use this opportunity as a positive way of promoting peace within the club and the community. It is also a way to connect or reconnect with young future leaders in our communities and it is also a positive way to enhance Rotary awareness.
In the last Networker I mentioned that as a District we also supported two students from Aitken College to attend the Peace Forum in Hawaii. We look forward to Ashlee Crane and Jacqueline Craven sharing their experience with us in due course.
The three-day forum held in Berlin last November was the largest Rotary event staged in Germany since the RI Convention in Munich 25 years ago. The forum had more than 1,800 attendees including Rotaractors, Rotary Peace Fellows, exchange students and Rylarians joining Rotarians and community leaders.
At the conclusion of the Berlin Forum, a “Peace Declaration” was issued. The full declaration is [included in the insert box], but I think it is worthwhile to highlight the vision for action developed at that Forum:
Rotary, through its Peace Scholars program, provides the wherewithal to achieve many of these objectives in a sustained and sustainable manner but we as individual Rotarians have the capacity to make a real difference. Rotary Clubs and Rotarians lead efforts in our local communities to reach out to minority and refugee groups in our communities with meaningful strategies to integrate them into our communities.
Every international project that Rotary clubs initiate or partner in, either directly, through RAWCS, ROMAC, Interplast or through Foundation grants make a significant contribution to removing the typical causes of conflict. By helping to eradicate polio, providing clean drinking water, helping with sanitation and by addressing illiteracy, we are chipping away at inequities that should not exist and thereby helping to make a real difference towards sustainable peace in the world.
Some projects are small, funded by a DDF grant to the club, or large such as our District’s Vocational Training Team to Timor Leste. Shortly our fourth VTT team will make the journey to rural areas of Timor Leste to provide refresher courses for midwives and doctors working in these remote areas. The Training Team deals with the major causes of maternal and neonatal mortality and provides hands-on training to make a real difference in reducing the grim statistics of a country with one of the highest maternal and child death rates in the world.
As with many of Rotary’s programs the benefits extend beyond the immediate goals. The VTT has refined and developed a delivery program model that can be taken to developing countries around the world.
We are fortunate to have as Rotarians in our District world renowned practitioners to develop and implement the program. Professor Jeremy Oats (RC Melbourne) and Professor Sue McDonald (RC North Balwyn) with the other team participants have indeed made a significant difference to the lives of women and children in this fledgling nation. This is “Peace Through Service” in action.
The VTT is one of many projects, many of which just happen, almost in the background. We will be showcasing club activities through the annual cluster reviews at our District Conference in Albury but we will also have some special guests who will share their experiences on the ground in developing countries. Peter Gray is an Aussie who now spends his life rescuing kids from unspeakable situations in Cambodia. He is a Rotarian and President of RC Phnom Penh. He will be joined by Rithy Pahn who has experienced tragedy and rebirth in his life. All of his family were murdered by the Khmer Rouge. He was raised in a monastery by Buddhist monks and learned 6 languages, a deep historical and political knowledge of his country, and a quest to help his "poor people". He has continued educating himself and has degrees in teaching and agriculture. Rithy makes his living as a tour guide but beyond his family's needs all his income goes to helping his "poor people". Rithy has now become a Rotarian because through Rotary he can leverage his personal contribution to a peaceful future.
This is one of the many fabulous presentations that we will have the opportunity to experience at Albury. The amazing story of Rotary and Rotarians in action in Cambodia is only one of the many fantastic aspects of our Conference in Albury because Rotary is amazing.
We are still accepting bookings for the Conference and we still have good rooms available so – See you in Albury.