By Kai Nestman, a member of the Rotaract Club of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
This past weekend I was fortunate to participate in a Rotary Global Peace Forum in Honolulu, Hawaii. The forum placed a heightened emphasis on young people as catalysts for peace. Workshops brought together participants from around the world to discuss and engage in peace education, technology, intercultural understanding, peace through humanitarianism, and world peace through personal health, among many others. Young people offer us the greatest opportunity to move towards world peace.
Peace can be described as a lifetime journey that individuals travel through in the quest to achieve harmony – a personal expedition in search of harmony that could extend to the cosmos, our environment, the relations between each other, and our harmony with oneself. Peace could include a world free from violence and suffering, yet full of tolerance and love.
Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Member of Parliament in Burma (Myanmar), was the keynote speaker at Rotary’s peace forum.
“Young men and women should not need to think about peace. If they need to think about peace there is something wrong with society; there is something wrong with their family situation, or their social situation,” described Daw Suu Kyi when I asked, “what encourages people to believe in peace, and especially youth in this process?”
Suu Kyi continued in her response that, “the young must also understand the sedative for peace and the drive for peace… [and] because there is so much turmoil in the world we live in, that more and more young people understand the value of peace.”
Youth must gain access to the opportunity to broaden their horizons and cultural understanding through experiences such as a Rotary Youth Exchange. Rotary International sends more than 8,000 secondary school students each year to over 80 countries where students live with host families and bridge international friendships over a year-long exchange.
There are many opportunities for young people to study abroad, live in another country with host families, and engage in a new culture and language. These experiences through high school or during college and university develop international relationships between two similar yet different cultures. This exchange precipitates peace.
As Aung San Suu Kyi stated, “we depend on our young people to take us forward.” This could be significant in the quest to achieve world peace; however, we must look to organizations such as Rotary International and educational institutions to promote this shift in international experience and ensure greater accessibility. Everyone has a role in peace, but we must empower youth to grow as peacemakers.
Editor’s note: Kai Nestman is a member of the Rotaract Club of Ottawa and past Rotary Youth Exchange student to Thailand. Kai participated in the Rotary Global Peace Forum in Honolulu, Hawaii, through a generous partnership with the Rotary Club of Sunshine Coast-Sechelt (District 5040).