On November 10, 2017, Paul K. Chappell, NAPF Peace Leadership Director, spoke about peace literacy and our shared humanity to over 500 former, current, and future Rotary district governors from six states and Vancouver Island at the Rotary International Institute, Zones 25/26. This represented a new level of interaction between NAPF and one of the world’s largest service organizations with a background of almost 100 years of peace projects and initiatives.
Recommended by a Rotarian with strong ties to the Dayton International Peace Museum, Chappell began his journey with Rotary in April 2015 with his talk on “Why Peace Is Possible,” at the Southwestern Ohio Rotary District 6670 conference. The event generated comments such as, “He [Paul] presents a unique view on peace that makes you really start to think,” “Very practical approach in presentation,” and “I was changed. I went in thinking that peace was impossible. Left thinking that there is a way to spread peace. Slow and steady, like curing polio.”
For more than 30 years, one of Rotary International’s worldwide service projects has been to help eradicate polio. Today, the number of countries where polio has been endemic has been reduced from 125 down to three. Less well known are Rotary International’s many contributions to international peace.
To name just a few: peace and conflict prevention/resolution has long been one of Rotary’s six areas of focus. After World War I, peacebuilding was incorporated into Rotary’s constitution and bylaws. Towards the end of World War II, Rotary International provided eleven official observers to the U.S. delegation involved with finalizing the charter that founded the United Nations. Today Rotary, with 1.2 million members around the globe, holds observer status at the U.N. And the topic at the 2017 Rotary Day at the U.N., held this year in Switzerland at the original home of the League of Nations, was “Peace: Making a Difference.”
Rotary International has also established six peace centers at universities across the globe and has helped to educate more than 1,000 peace fellows. A number of local Rotary clubs have peace committees and in 2012 the Rotarian Action Group for Peace was founded to offer resources and help further Rotary’s peace efforts.
While the “service above self” mission of Rotary operates outside of politics, individual members have been involved in the discussion on nuclear arms. For example, members of Rotary Peace Partners 5550 in Winnipeg, Canada recently helped to sponsor a university symposium on “Human Dimensions and Perspectives in a Nuclear World: Legal Issues of Non-Proliferation, Disarmament and the Right to Nuclear Energy.” Rotary Peace Partners 5550 also sponsored Winnipeg tours for Paul K. Chappell in both April and October 2017 that included Rotary clubs, universities, educators, refugee groups, and indigenous communities.
Future 2018 Rotary events for Chappell will include district conferences in San Jose, California; Biloxi, Mississippi; and Regina, Saskatchewan, with 2019 events already being scheduled. The talks and workshops will always include a framework for understanding why world peace is possible and how peace literacy gives us a path to get there.
To learn more about peace literacy, visit peaceliteracy.org.