February is an important month as Rotary was founded in this month. We have been celebrating this month as Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution Month. Friends, let us first ask ourselves what is peace. Peace reigns when people are able to resolve their conflicts without violence and work together to improve the quality of their lives. Peace is when everyone has fair and equal access to basic needs for their wellbeing — food, clean water, shelter, education, healthcare and a sustainable living environment. Peace is when everyone has an equal opportunity to work and make a living, regardless of race, colour, caste, creed, gender, ethnicity and other parameters of identity.
Conflict is generally associated with negative encounters. Let us realise that conflict fosters an awareness that problems exist. In 1982, for the first time, the World Understanding and Peace Committee discussed ways to promote greater understanding and peace in the world. Before the formation of the Peace Programmes, Rotary has served to promote goodwill between the countries of South America. For example, much ill-will existed between Peru and Chile for nearly 50 years after the War of the Pacific. There were no points of contact and all relations, including diplomatic and trade between the countries were suspended. The Rotarians of Chile took the initiative to send Christmas greetings to their counterparts in Peru. In response, Peruvian Rotarians sent New Year greetings and through this simple gesture a door was opened and a channel created for the resumption of cordial relations between the two countries.
During the war in Gran Chaco, the Rotary Clubs of La Paz, Bolivia, and Asuncion, Paraguay, looked after the prisoners of war in their respective countries, with some Rotarians in Argentina acting as go-betweens. This work was praised by the Red Cross, and helped bring about closer relationship between these countries after the efforts of several Rotarians serving on the Peace Commission. Several prominent South American Rotarians have commented that during the period of the war, a Rotary lapel pin often served as a safe “passport” while travelling between the hostile neighbouring countries.
Rotary makes amazing things happen in a variety of ways. Whether through our service projects or peace fellowships and scholarships, our members are taking action to address the underlying causes of conflict, including poverty, inequality, ethnic tension, lack of access to education, and unequal distribution of resources.
Rotarians must follow the 6th century BC Chinese philosopher — Lao Tzu’s words : “There must be peace in the heart.” It is only selfless work that brings peace in the heart and we can achieve this by extending a helping hand to the needy and working for the welfare of our communities.
If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbours.
If there is to be peace between neighbours,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.
Let us work to achieve peace and show the world Rotary: Making a Difference.
Director, Rotary International