- John Brodey
Ah, were it all so simple, as John Lennon once implored us, to just ‘give peace a chance’. In retrospect, it seems obvious that we tried it once or twice and didn’t seem to care for it much. Over the last 3400 years of human history we have had just 268 years that were free of war (defined as an armed conflict with 1,000+ deaths). That’s a measly 8% of the time. In just the 20th century about 108 million people have lost their lives including 44 million combatants and 64 million civilians. What is it they say about not learning from history?
This sad observation about our species comes to mind in the aftermath of last issue’s column about the Veterans for Peace presentation we had at the VOM Rotary breakfast meeting. There have been any number of issues that have driven violent confrontation between social groups, beginning with the need for security, territory, food and sex. The justifications became only slightly more sophisticated over time, religion, ideology, wealth, power. It seems unfortunate that the past 100 years of human innovation have primarily served to enhance our ability to annihilate each other in greater numbers. Globalization has resulted in connecting us all together for better or for worse. These days, local wars don’t remain region specific but take on international overtones. The best way to keep war from facilitating our extinction is probably not by offering Peace Prizes, but to start doing the work that globalization makes possible.
We value peace and applaud those who make it their mission, but who is willing to take the effort to the next level? The cause of peace has always been a cornerstone of Rotary clubs around the world and the parent organization that oversees them. The Rotary International Peace Fellowship offers 100 fully funded awards to individuals around the world who desire to become catalysts for peace. They study at one of the established peace centers and engage in global networking. They receive academic degrees in the study of issues critical to the peace making process. There are also professional development programs as graduates work in the private sector, education, research and missions such as the United Nations Sub-programs target those issues which are essential for peace to have a chance; things like, clean water, the ability to provide for one’s family and education. Rotary International also has Ambassadorial Scholarships through Peace in Action. You can never start too early and so for secondary school
youth there is Interact and the Youth Exchange which place 9,000 students in 100 countries per year. Rotaract is a similar club-based program for young adults 18-30. It is made up of 12,300 individuals in 133 countries who are building the bridges of respect, unity and understanding. Peace is attained one person at a time and there is no shortcut to reversing mankind’s destructive instincts. But, it’s a good feeling to know that the work is being done. Stop in some Friday morning to the Quail Inn…and feel the good.