The third and final of Rotary International President Sakuji Tanaka’s Global Peace Forums took place May 17-18 in Hiroshima. The theme“Peace Begins with You” asked Rotarians and participants to think about what individuals can do to make a more peaceful world. The first two forums were held in Berlin and Honolulu, culminating in the final forum in Hiroshima. President Tanaka personally selected those three sites because they were directly affected by World War II and now represent the very real reconciliation between one-time enemies. More than 2,700 people from over 52 countries attended the forum, including Rotarians, local leaders, current faculty, students and alumni of Rotary’s global Peace Centers. In a show of solidarity with the group, the Governor of Hiroshima Prefecture and the Mayor of Hiroshima City also attended.
The final peace forum, hosted at the Hiroshima International Conference Centre, was the largest of the three and a resounding success. President Tanaka’s theme served as a narrative that allowed for wide interpretation by participants from all walks of life. Key presentations included speeches by Alejandro Mejia (UNITAR), Wilfred Wilkinson (Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair 2012-2013) and President Tanaka (RI president 2012-2013). The ICU Rotary Peace Fellows from Classes X and XI participated during the conference and ran a special session as well. The session, organized by Class XI, presented the Peace Fellowship to conference participants. A special video showing disaster volunteer activities of Class IX ICU Rotary Peace Fellows responding to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku was shown and received significant appreciation from all present. After the video, a breakout session followed, with separate groups discussing five dimensions of peace. These dimensions were defined as Absence of Physical Violence, Social Justice and Equality, Fulfillment of Basic Human Needs, Freedom to Pursue Passion, and Individual Inner Peace.
Rotary International has been active in Japan since 1920, with the original Rotary Club of Tokyo. Other Rotary clubs emerged in Osaka, Kyoto, Yokohama and several other cities. There are about 88,000 Rotary members in Japan presently belonging to 2,285 clubs. Since 2002, Rotary has annually recruited and sponsored Peace Fellows who earn either master’s degrees or professional certificates in peace and conflict resolution at Rotary Peace Centers worldwide (Including ICU, which hosts one of the six Peace Centers- the only one in Asia to grant the MA degree). In the past 11 years, 70 Peace Fellows have graduated from ICU’s Rotary Peace Center in Tokyo and another 21 are currently studying there. Likewise, 25 Japanese Peace Fellows have studied abroad at the other Rotary Peace Centers.
Rotary President Sukuji Tanaka eloquently summarized his vision in his closing address at the Global Peace Forum, stating “Every Rotary project, every act of service, is an act of love and kindness. When we serve in the right ways, and for the right reasons, we bring people together, in peace and in harmony. How could it be otherwise?” While he may be reaching the end of his one-year tenure as Rotary International President, Tanaka-san has laid the foundation for the individual promotion of peace through Rotarians and peacemakers worldwide. From Hiroshima to all corners of our shared planet, “Peace Begins With You.”
(Special thanks to ICU Rotary Peace Fellows Jacob Kahemele and Christopher John Lindstrom for kindly sharing their direct input to help make this story possible.)