A well-known astronaut once said his perspective about the earth changed dramatically the first time he went into space. Viewed from above, at 650 km in space, the earth looked peaceful and beautiful. Yet he recalled later that as the spacecraft passed over some parts of the earth, he was shaken into reality when he considered the ongoing conflicts in some of the regions he was flying over. During an interview he spoke of a moment when he saw the earth with a sense of how it ought to be — and sensed a challenge to do all he could to make it better. To look and make the earth a beautiful place, peace is essential. To have peace, we need to address the challenges facing the world today such as climate change, malnutrition, health, poverty and illiteracy.
Arch Klumph called Rotary “a force that has taken on an impetus that cannot be diminished.” Klumph made that insightful statement in a speech at the Atlanta Convention when he was RI President. His words were to assume prophetic significance in Rotary’s quest for peace, for it was his vision that led to the creation of The Rotary Foundation.
In 1940, The Rotarian published a commentary that came out of the RI Convention in Havana, Cuba. Long before there was a United Nations, before “human rights” was a term most people would even understand, the Rotarians’ meeting in Havana adopted a resolution calling for “freedom, justice, truth, sanctity of the pledged word, and respect for human rights.” When the newly chartered United Nations wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, it used the resolution from the Rotary Havana Convention as its framework. That was a proud moment for Rotary and Rotarians.
Former Canadian Prime Minster and honorary Rotarian Lester B Pearson, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo in 1957, said: “How can there be peace in the world when people do not know each other, and how can they know each other when they have never met?” Rotary provides the answer to this. Rotary is Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, a phrase in Sanskrit that means the whole world is one family. Rotary’s involvement in community work that brings the world closer and helps to make it a better place is driven through its global network of clubs and districts well-supported by The Rotary Foundation.
I would like to cite an article published in The Hindu’s Business Line on April 27, 2015, quoting the role of PRIP K R Ravindran on negotiating a ceasefire with LTTE during the conflict years which enabled polio immunisation of infants in the war-ridden northern parts of Sri Lanka. The result was that despite years and years of civil war, Sri Lanka became one of the first countries in the region to be declared polio-free. Thanks Rasheeda for highlighting the programme of Rotary’s peace through service.
Be the inspiration to promote a conflict free community around.
Director, Rotary International