One of the fascinating things about Rotary is that we are many things at once. We are a service organisation based on action. We are also a professional and community networking group, not to mention a place to find friendship and fun.
And, when you stop to think about it, you and I are also part of a peace organisation. I saw this in 2013 when I represented Rotary at an international symposium on advancing a peaceful democratic transition for Myanmar. Despite recent setbacks, the fact that Rotary was at the table demonstrates that the world sees us as peacebuilders who are not deterred by the most difficult issues.
How did we earn this reputation? Through literacy projects that help people expand their minds and viewpoints. And through water, sanitation and hygiene projects that create common ground for communities in conflict. The Rotary Action Group for Peace promotes hands-on service projects, and our annual international conventions unite thousands in a celebration of global harmony.
Perhaps the most visible face of this cause is the Rotary Peace Centers programme, now in its 21st year. Today, more than 1,600 Rotary Peace Fellows are advancing the cause of peace in more than 140 countries. On Feb 1 we open applications for the next generation of peace fellows. Encourage your local peacebuilders to learn about Rotary and apply for this unique fellowship.
And soon, we’ll be recruiting fellows for a new peace centre in the Middle East and North Africa region as we begin working this year with a recently selected partner university. Made possible by a generous gift of $15.5 million to The Rotary Foundation from the Otto and Fran Walter Foundation, the addition of this centre furthers Rotary’s vision of peacemaking in action.
As we celebrate Rotary’s 118th anniversary and Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention Month, we can be proud of the many ways Rotary promotes peace. Without The Rotary Foundation, and your support of it, none of that would be possible.
You can directly support this work through the Foundation by visiting rotary.org/donate and selecting the peacebuilding and conflict prevention area of focus. I also encourage you to contribute to the Ian and Juliet Riseley Endowed Fund in The Rotary Foundation to support peace projects.
If Paul Harris could see us now, he would be amazed by the astonishing growth of the little club he founded in 1905 and the global force for good — and peace — that Rotary is today.
Ian H S Riseley
Foundation Trustee Chair