Desmond Tutu encourages working for peace
During a press conference in Birmingham, England, on 18 June, (from left) Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Jonathan B. Majiyagbe, Past RI President Chuck Keller, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Arnoldas Pranckevicius, a 2002-04 peace fellow, speak about the challenges of world peace. Rotary Images/Monika Lozinska-Lee
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu encouraged Rotary World Peace Fellows and young Rotarians to "go for it" in working for world peace.
"I have a high admiration for young people. I believe very strongly in the fact that they are dreamers," Tutu said during a press conference at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole in Birmingham, England, before his keynote address at the Rotary World Peace Symposium 18 June at the National Exhibition Centre.
"This is why I accepted the invitation to come to the peace symposium. Rotary peace fellows are a fantastic bunch of human beings. They believe, and I believe, it is possible to have a world without war. It is possible to have a world without hunger."
Tutu cited Rotary's efforts to eradicate polio as an example of what the organization can do.
"Look at polio. When they started out saying they wanted to eradicate polio, a lot of people said you ought to have your head read," he said. "Now there are only four countries where polio is endemic. This is fantastic. It is going to happen, and it is fantastic."
Hundreds of peace fellows, Rotary International and Rotary Foundation program alumni, and Rotarians are convening in Birmingham to attend the Rotary World Peace Symposium and Rotary Alumni Celebration 18-20 June. In addition to Tutu, other major speakers include Jan Egeland, director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, and Jean-François Rischard, an international consultant and former vice president of the World Bank.
In responding to a question about recent conflicts in Africa, Tutu said it is important to keep a historical perspective to remain positive about peace. He noted that Europe went through some dark times during the past century, including two world wars.
"What gives me a great deal of hope in Africa is looking at the history of Europe," he said. "Millions and millions have been killed. We tend to forget."
Arnoldas Pranckevicius, a 2002-04 peace fellow from Lithuania who is now an administrator with the European Parliament, said Tutu's presence at the symposium is inspirational and gives the Rotary Centers for International Studies enhanced visibility. He said the program has had a profound impact on his life.
"Today we are 400 alumni, still a small group and very young, but potentially a powerful network, a soft power," Pranckevicius said. Through the Rotary experience, he added, alumni have forged close friendships and work every day for peace.
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