By Maria Kliavkoff
What difference can one conversation, one action really have? As a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada living and working in the border area between Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia, I have always had a passion for peace. By good fortune, I have had the opportunity to meet four RI presidents, and I asked each what polio eradication has taught Rotarians about peace. The answer that inspired me most came from past RI President Barry Rassin, who told me “peace happens one conversation at a time.”
I chose to reflect on this answer in one of my favorite places, the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (WGIPP) – the first International Peace Park created by U.S. and Canadian Rotarians in the early 1930s. It is truly a “place of peace,” as the first peoples of the area called it centuries ago. As a director of the park’s association, I had been attending annual meetings and having peace conversations with other Rotarians.
Making it measurable
In 2019 Al Jubitz, co-founder of the Rotary Action Group (RAG) for Peace, was our keynote speaker. He shared the importance of creating measurables around peace. I learned about the partnership between Rotary and the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) and the need for dedicated peacebuilder clubs. His talk piqued my curiosity. I knew he was right, making peace measurable is the key. The question was, what would my next conversation be?
Rotary members and guests reach across the U.S. and Canadian border during a peace event at the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park
I researched what it would take to become a peacebuilder club and discovered that it required the commitment of a minimum of two club members to form a peacebuilder committee. Each would be responsible to join the RAG for Peace, take the IEP training on Positive Peace, the 8 Pillars of Peace, and the Global Peace Index and to bring their findings back to their club for potential next steps.
So I knew my next conversation should be with my home club, the Rotary District 5080 Passport Club. In January 2020, we became District 5080’s first peacebuilder club. A quarter of our members joined the Peacebuilder Committee and together and became members of the RAG for Peace. We also took the free training that’s available to all Rotarians through the Positive Peace Academy.
The training excited and inspired us to have more conversations. We made presentations to other clubs in the district inspiring them to become peacebuilder clubs. The conversations continue and the number of peacebuilder clubs in District 5080 grows. Thanks to the work of Bill Dunwoody, we have an Area 10 Peacebuilder Committee, made up of members of area clubs. Further conversations culminated in our first District 5080 Peacebuilder Conference: Today for Tomorrow.
Our focus was to encourage conversations that gave participants a clearer understanding of the 8 Pillars of Positive Peace. They were then asked to brainstorm who their next conversation would be with. Participants were inspired to carry the message back to their clubs. Some are creating peacebuilder clubs at home; some are committed to taking the IEP training; some are using our conference model to create their own district conference; and some are excited to create peace parks and peace poles in their communities.
As the conversations continued, what became clear to everyone was how interconnected the 8 Pillars are, and how interconnected we all are. District 5080 is now working on our next peace conference, having the conversations necessary to continue this work.
As Barry said, “Peace happens one conversation at a time.” As I trace the conversations and see all the impact, I am grateful for this key concept. What conversations are you called to have?
Maria Kliavkoff’s passion is peace. She is VP of the WGIPPA, a member of the District 5080 Passport Club, with members from Washington and Idaho in the U.S., and British Columbia in Canada, and is dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada.