Rotarians offer support in wake of Mumbai tragedy
A participant in a candle light vigil in New Delhi, India, 2 December places a candle to express solidarity with the victims of the Mumbai terror attacks. Photo by AP Photo/Gurinder Osan
Rotary leaders and Indian Rotarians are expressing sadness and offering support for survivors following last week’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, that killed more than 170 people.
More than 300 Mumbai Rotarians joined tens of thousands of city residents on 3 December in a peace march to mourn the dead and protest the violence. Participants gathered in the streets surrounding the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, one of several locations stormed by armed gunmen on 26 November. In a show of unity and peace, Rotarians carried Rotary flags and banners.
"It is a terrible situation. But Rotary is ready to help those who have suffered," says Past RI President Rajendra Saboo. "Rotary will be most needed when the painful happening recedes in the memory."
Rotarians and their families stood in long lines to donate blood. Saboo also said Mumbai clubs are in contact with hospitals, offering support and comfort to victims.
"This is a time when those who have suffered the most may find themselves lonely and in need," says Saboo, a resident of the Union Territory of Chandigarh. "Rotary will not only be there to heal the immediate wounds but to care for them long term."
Calling the attacks in Mumbai "a catastrophe," RI President Dung Kurn Lee says the recovery process will take many months and that Rotary will provide support for victims and their families.
"Rotary is the organization that helps people make the transition from day-to-day survival to a return to a normal life," says Lee.
Local clubs are also struggling with the senseless violence.
"It is very tragic that so many innocent people were killed or injured," says Prabha Mathur, past president of the Rotary Club of Bombay Airport in Mumbai. "We are all trying to find peaceful ways of addressing the situation."
RI Director Ashok Mahajan says now is the time to spread Rotary's message of peace.
"I'm deeply saddened by what happened. People here are extremely angry," says Mahajan, a Mumbai resident. "But I don't want to see the situation worsen. It's time for Rotary to unite and help achieve world peace."
Mahajan expresses gratitude for the many condolences he’s received from Rotarians worldwide, and says he especially appreciates the e-mails and phone calls from Pakistani Rotarians.
"Clubs in Pakistan showed great concern about our health and well-being," Mahajan says.
The Rotary Club of Bombay has been left without a home, owing to the extensive fire damage at the Taj Mahal hotel. Since its founding in 1929, the club has met in the hotel’s ballroom.
"There was so much Rotary history in that room, and I have fond memories of attending meetings there," says Saboo, who is working with club leaders to find a temporary meeting place. "Our hearts go out to the members. I'm hopeful . . . they'll be back at the Taj soon."