Local peace forums aim to inspire international results
RI President Sakuji Tanaka (left) with John McMonagle, a member of the Rotary Club of Londonderry, and chair of the club's peace forum 24-26 May. Tanaka will speak at the peace forum. Photo courtesy Rotary Club of Londonderry
Londonderry, Northern Ireland, once torn by civil unrest and violence, is now thriving with culture and a popular destination.
The city’s transformation, which came about after the peace process in Northern Ireland culminated in the Good Friday Agreement, serves as a shining example of how a city can make the transition from conflict to peace.
To mark the 15th anniversary of the historic agreement, the Rotary Club of Londonderry will host a three-day international peace forum, Peace Through Building Bridges, 24-26 May. The event promotes the 2012-13 RI theme, Peace Through Service, says conference chair John McMonagle.
“After many turbulent years in our history, we as a people have reclaimed peace and we want to share our experience with the world,” says McMonagle, a member of the Londonderry club. “To assist us in this endeavor, we need to bring together all of the people who have been significant in our history, some victims, some perpetrators, and our own leaders, academics, and great thinkers.”
Nearly 1,000 Rotarians and guests have registered for peace-building workshops. Panel discussions focus on ways to promote peace through economics, human rights, and youth development. Keynote speakers include RI President Sakuji Tanaka, peace activists, government officials, university professors, and writers who experienced the Northern Ireland conflict and helped resolve the early post-conflict issues.
The goal of the conference, says McMonagle, is to “contribute to reconciliation, learning, and self-expression to those committed to peace through the world. We want to show how just one Rotary club can play a big part in communicating this message.”
As part of this year’s theme, RI will be holding three Rotary Global Peace Forums. Tanaka is also encouraging each club and district to plan a peace activity or hold its own peace forum. In addition to Londonderry, a number of other clubs and districts have responded to Tanaka’s invitation.
Districts 5040 (British Columbia, Canada) and 5050 (part of British Columbia, part of Washington, USA) are holding a joint peace forum on 23 February, World Understanding and Peace Day and Rotary’s anniversary, to help clubs develop community and global peace projects.
“We want to bring to life this year’s Rotary theme by encouraging Rotarians and clubs to take on peace-related service projects locally and internationally,” says Chris Offer, a past governor of District 5040, who is helping organize the forum. “We aspire through presentations, discussion, and debate to motivate Rotarians to become involved in peace issues.”
The conference will discuss juvenile bullying, gang activity, the Rotary Peace Centers program, and the use of Rotary Foundation grants for peace and conflict resolution. Workshops will also explore the need for Rotary clubs to take a leadership role in promoting peace, how polio eradication initiatives demonstrate peace in developing countries, and how Rotarians can establish partnerships to pursue local and international service projects aimed at building peace. Roundtable discussions will involve Rotarians in identifying specific actions their clubs can take.
“Peace is more than the absence of war,” says Offer. “Peace is when we minimize a social injustice and demonstrate basic respect for someone else. This forum is about showing Rotarians new ways to promote peace.”