R.I. President receives symbol of peace from Thai Rotarians
In a ceremony heavy with symbolism, RI President Sakuji Tanaka joined other Rotary and community leaders in laying a wreath in Hiroshima Memorial Park, dedicated to the victims of the atomic bomb dropped on the city during World War II.
The subject of peace has been at the heart of Tanaka’s year as president of Rotary International. A member of the Rotary Club of Yashio, Japan, Tanaka selected ‘Peace Through Service’ as Rotary International’s theme for his year, and he organized three global peace forums to motivate Rotarians and others, particularly youth, to work for peace in their daily lives.
Past RI President Luis Giay (left), RI President Sakuji Tanaka (centre), and Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Wilfrid J. Wilkinson (right) lay wreaths at the Memorial Cenotaph in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park during the Rotary Global Peace Forum 17 May. (Photo courtesy of Noriko Futagami, The Rotary-no-Tomo)
The wreath-laying ritual took place on May 17 in Hiroshima, Japan during the Rotary Global Peace Forum held on 17-18 May. Tanaka also visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and signed the guest book, which contains messages of peace from many past and present world leaders.
Artist extraordinaire, Past President Nit Duangdee sits pensively in front of his finished ‘Masterpiece for Peace’.
More than 2,700 delegates attended the forum, including Rotarians, community leaders, and students and alumni of Rotary’s Peace Centers program – a peace studies initiative that provides future leaders with the skills needed to resolve conflicts and promote peace. The governor of Hiroshima Prefecture, Hidehiko Yuzaki, and the mayor of Hiroshima, Kazumi Matsui, also attended the solemn ceremony.
Previous forums were held in Berlin, Germany last November and in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA in January this year. Tanaka selected all three sites because they were affected by the events of World War II and now represent the healing power of sustainable peace between nations.
A small contingent of Thai Rotarians attended the 2 day event bearing with them a unique token of peace which was presented to President Tanaka.
At the presentation Thatree Leetheeraprasert, governor of district 3340 in Thailand explained the purpose and symbolism of the ‘Painting for Peace’ project saying, “Rotarians in Thailand are most impressed and emotionally touched by your theme ‘Peace Through Service’ for 2012-13. Every Rotarian in Thailand is in total agreement that we should promulgate this message to the people in every corner of our beautiful country.”
To realise this plan, DG Thatree and the Rotary Club of Pattaya initiated a project called “Painting for Peace”.
An eminent artist, Past President Nit Duangdee of the Rotary Club of Pattaya was commissioned to paint a portrait of ‘Sakuji Tanaka’.
During the painting process, Past President Noppadol Sangma carried the unfinished portrait to every district in Thailand where Rotarians wrote their messages of peace on the picture. They also made contributions, the sum of which will be presented to the relevant organisations for the promotion of peace and conflict resolution in Thailand, most especially in the restive south.
“This painting is the only one of its kind in the world,” said DG Thatree, “and we hope that this project will not only instil the true meaning of peace in our hearts but will also foster goodwill between the Thai and Japanese people.”
In his closing address President Tanaka said, “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?”
District Governor (3340) Thatree Leetheeraprasert (2nd right), PP Noppadol Sangma (right) and PDG Pratheep S. Malhotra (left) present the ‘Peace through Service’ portrait to Rotary International President Sakuji Tanaka (2nd left).
Participants at the forum also adopted a declaration, “Peace Begins With You” which serves as a call to action for individuals to make a conscious effort in their daily lives to promote harmony with their neighbours and create friendships that transcend the divisions of nationality, politics, religion, and culture.
PDG Pratheep Malhotra presents President Tanaka with letters written by Rotarians in the restive southern provinces of Thailand in the hope that Rotary can play a part in bringing peace to their communities again.
“Today, as we leave this last Rotary Peace Forum, I ask you to understand that peace, in all of the ways that we can understand it, is a real and realistic goal for Rotary,” Tanaka said. “Peace is not something that can only be achieved through treaties, by governments, or through heroic struggles. It is something that we can find, and that we can achieve – every day, and in many simple ways.”
Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair-elect Past R.I. President Dong Kurn Lee, of the Rotary Club of Seoul Hangang, Korea, spoke about the contributions Rotary has made in moving the nations of Korea and Japan closer together as allies and economic partners, healing old wounds. He quoted a Korean saying, “It takes two palms to make a clapping sound,” to illustrate that neither nation could decide alone to live in peace with its neighbour.
Artist Nit Duangdee created a special work of art portraying President Tanaka and his wife Kyoko, which was warmly received by Tanaka-san.
“Every year, for the last eleven years, Japanese and Korean Rotarians have had a very special meeting: a Japanese-Korean friendship meeting,” Lee said. “It is a wonderful event. We talk about Rotary, and we do some Rotary work. But the most important part of the meeting is simply coming together, in Rotary fellowship. … Rotary has helped us to make our dream of peace between our countries real.”
President-nominee Gary C. K. Huang noted that the idea of treating others as we would like to be treated ourselves is a common concept across cultures and religions. Rotary members strive to achieve this by putting service above self and by laying a foundation for peace.
“We build peace in the world by building peace in our communities – within our Rotary zones and districts, and within our neighbourhoods,” Huang said. “We build peace in our communities by forging friendships, and by cultivating an open mind and a welcoming spirit within ourselves.”
Rotary has a long-standing commitment to peace. At the grassroots level, members have worked to address the underlying causes of conflict and violence, such as hunger, poverty, disease, and illiteracy. Ten years ago, Rotary decided to take a direct approach to promoting world understanding by providing future leaders with the tools they need to “wage peace” on the global stage.
RI President Sakuji Tanaka graciously thanks District Governor Thatree Leetheeraprasert, PP Noppadol Sangma and PDG Pratheep S. Malhotra for a most meaningful symbol of peace.
Since 2002, Rotary clubs have annually sponsored up to 110 scholars who embark on one to two years of study, earning either master’s degrees or professional certificates in peace and conflict resolution at Rotary Peace Centers at universities around the world.
In Thailand, The Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University provides a three month; professional development certificate program twice annually to individuals currently working in related fields. Sessions run from January-April and June-August each year with a maximum of 25 Rotary Peace Fellows in each session. For more information and application go to: http://www.rotarychula.org/