By Chris Offer, past governor of District 5040 and a member of the Rotary Club of Ladner
On 23 February, I had the pleasure of chairing a Rotary Peace Forum in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. This forum and other ones, a response to RI President Sukuji Tanaka’s challenge for districts to hold their own peace forums, allow Rotarians to discuss and debate regional peace issues. Local forums permit Rotarians who cannot attend one of the three Rotary Global Peace Forums to explore new opportunities and bring life to our theme, Peace Through Service.
We chose to discuss juvenile bullying and gang violence as local issues, and polio eradication, the reconstruction of Afghanistan, support for the Rotary Peace Centers, and the role of Rotary as peacemaker for our international issues for our forum in Vancouver.
We were privileged to begin with a presentation by Canada’s Minister of International Cooperation, Julian Fantino. Through Canada’s Pennies and More for Polio initiative, The Canadian International Development Agency and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are each contributing C$1 for every dollar raised by Canadian Rotarians through March. Fantino announced the great news that both the Canadian Government and the Gates Foundation have agreed to extend the match beyond the initial limit of $1 million. So far through the end of February, $2 million has been raised by Rotarians, with the resulting $6 million all going to help polio eradication. The Government of Canada has now funded in excess of $390 million for polio eradication!!
During a panel discussion on juvenile bullying, the chair of the Vancouver school board, a psychologist, an Interactor, and a former superintendent of schools serving as moderator explored the advantages and disadvantaged of allowing anonymous reporting of bullying. Allowing it may generate more reports and stop bullying, but it could also result in frivolous or false reports. Another roundtable agreed that encouraging participating in Rotary’s new generation programs is a fantastic way to combat bullying.
A police chief encouraged Rotarians to join other members of the community in taking a stand against gang violence. Targetting known offenders with the help of community support has been effective in reducing violence.
RI Director Bryn Styles described Rotary’s role as a peace maker in the world, while past Director Paul Netzel talked about the growing global reputation of Rotary’s Peace Centers and the importance of fundraising. Bob Scott, chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee, also discussed the role of polio eradication in peace. Even though we sometimes use words associated with war to describe our campaign – fighting, attacking, battling, or even combatting polio – in reality polio eradication promotes peace.
The forum concluded with delegates unanimously endorsing a Declaration of Peace.
The success of our forum will certainly not be measured in one day. It will have to be gauged in the weeks and months to follow. If Rotary clubs take on new service projects focused on peace locally and internationally, our forum will have been a success.