Rotary’s polio programme has helped avert a world war

RI President Shekhar Mehta
RI President Shekhar Mehta

World War I killed 20 million people; Rotary has helped to save 19 million people from being paralysed since its pioneering fight against polio in 1978. This is the best illustration of Rotary’s work for peace. We have averted a world war by our polio eradication programme,” said RI President Shekhar Mehta, addressing about 800 delegates from across 40 countries at a virtual International Peace Conference hosted by RC Chinchwad, RID 3131, in September.

He recalled his recent visit to Rotary’s latest peace centre set up at the Makerere University in Uganda, Africa, where he met the first group of 15 students enrolled for Rotary’s peace studies. “Their skill in conflict resolution is being honed by Rotary facilitating their further education. Now we have 1,500 peace scholars at some of the best universities in the world who are trained to stop conflicts,” he said.

Referring to Rotary’s youth exchange programme, President Mehta said that it helps the participants understand and respect the different cultures of countries and that is the basis of peace. “When a girl from India goes to Brazil, she takes with her so much of India and similarly when a student from Brazil visits India, he brings along his country’s culture and tradition with him.” Culture is a thought process. “If only people can understand that there can be two views for one idea, the world will be a far better place. The biggest differences between countries happen because of differences in culture,” he said.

Peace is inbuilt in the programmes of Rotary. “When you bring water to a parched village in Africa through a Rotary global grant, and if you ask the children and women who have been carrying pails and pails of water from long distances to their homes, the borewells we sunk for them mean peace. For a mother who was not able to feed her child due to poverty the piece of bread you give her is peace. She is not interested in who is at war with whom. When we help the lame to walk, the blind to see we are bringing them peace. A country that is half educated cannot be at peace. Its people will not understand the value of democracy. So when we make those happy schools, train teachers and bring technology into the lives of people, we are bringing peace to communities,” he said in his address from Prague (Czech Republic) where he was attending the Zone Institute.

RI Director Mahesh Kotbagi pointed out that all of Rotary’s seven areas of focus aim at promoting peace among people, communities and the world as a whole. Peace is not a selective programme of one country or continent. We have to work at grassroots level to usher in peace among people. Discrimination should stop at all levels. “Gender equality is the number one predictor of peace. It means creating a world where people and planet can flourish — regardless of age, race, gender, class, ethnicity, ability, or sexual orientation,” he said.

DG Pankaj Shah complimented RC Chinchwad president Shilpagauri Ganpule for organising the two-day summit and balancing it with resource persons drawn from various countries. “We got insights into the diverse facets of peacebuilding processes practised in these countries,” he said. The district has planned a 3,000-km bicycle rally titled Sadhbhavna, put together by the district Rotarians to Bangladesh, as a goodwill promotion initiative.

Topics covered at the conference included achieving peace through ­creativity, yoga, music and dance. Peace studies specialist Dr Thomas Clough Daffern presented his theory of conflict resolution and peacebuilding processes. Arun Sathe shed light on RI’s peace grant. Research papers presented by Rtr Abraham of RAC Lugbe and Rtr Chibuikem Anyanwu, RAC Port Harcourt Sea Port, Nigeria, were well-received.

Dr Nitin Karmalkar, vice chancellor, Savitribai Phule University, Pune, and Rtn Pietro Uzochukwu Macleo from RC Abujo Wuse, Nigeria, were honoured with the RI’s Peace Awards.

PDGs and members of other Rotary clubs of RID 3131 also participated in the meet. “It was a befitting way for our club to celebrate its silver jubilee year,” said Shilpa who anchored the conference.

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