Southampton Rotary recognizes World Peace Day with Peace Pole dedication

“May Peace Prevail on Earth” are powerful words, particularly, in the world climate that is being experienced and they are the words that have come to Southampton (Saugeen Shores) through a Peace Pole thanks to Rotary.

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The Rotary Club of Southampton has established a Peace Pole in Rotary Perkins Park on McNab Street and the words are inscribed in the six official languages of the United Nations as part of the 75th recognition event. (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish)

In 2019,  the-then Rotary International President, Mark Maloney, encouraged clubs to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations on October 24th, 2020 to coincide with United Nations Day and also World Polio Day.

Rotary was, in fact, instrumental in the establishment of the UN and holds the highest consultative status offered to a non-governmental organization by the UN’s Economic and Social Council, which oversees many specialized UN agencies.

To meet the Presidential challenge the club’s International Service Committee decided on two initiatives.

The first was the planting of 75 special ‘End Polio Now’ yellow and red tulips, under the Perkins Park Memorial Board, in the Fall of 2019, one for each year of Rotary, so they would be ready for blooming in the spring of 2020. This initiative also served to recognize Rotary’s involvement in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

The second was the erection of a Peace Pole on World Peace Day and which was delayed due to COVID until September 21st of this year.

Established in 1981 by a unanimous UN resolution, Peace Day on September 21st provides a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a culture of peace.

The ‘Peace Pole’ project was started in Japan by Masahisa Goi (1916 – 1980), who dedicated his life to spreading the message, “May Peace Prevail on Earth”. He was greatly affected by the destruction caused by World War II and the atomic bombs which fell on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the first pole was dedicated in 1955.

In 1986, the first Peace Poles were erected in North America in San Francisco and New York.  There are now more than 250,000 Peace Poles standing in almost every country throughout the world.

  Unveiling the plaque: (L) Deputy Mayor Don Matheson, Rotary past-District Governor Tony Sheard, Lori                               Kewquom of SON, Warden Janice Jackson and Rotary District Governor Mike Chaffee

Bruce County Warden, Janice Jackson, who attended the ceremony said was particularly thrilled with the Southampton Rotary project.  “I can never say enough about Rotary International and all the Rotary Clubs we have in our community.  I would like to challenge all Rotary clubs in Bruce County communities to take on this project and have Peace Poles in their parks.”

Rotary District Governor, Mike Chaffee, travelled from Michigan for the ceremony.  “Peace is a fleeting commodity in this world. There are challenges everywhere and as my Dad used to say ‘Peace begins at home’.  If you live a peaceful life, others around you will live a peaceful life.  Celebrating World Peace Day began in 1954 when the Japanese presented a bell to the United Nations. That bell was rung on the first day of Spring and first Day of Fall, September 21st.  Rotary invests millions of dollars to try to make the world a better place. The Rotary Club of Southampton has a huge footprint and identity in this community and that’s what it’s all about … people helping people.”

Lori Kewaquom of Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) and Saugeen Advocacy for Healing Coordinator, pointed out that plans are going forward for September 30th Truth and Reconciliation Day and that Rotary was invited to set up an information booth at SON’s event. She said that focus of the September 30th will be ‘What are We Doing for Our Children’ following the atrocities of residential schools.  “When you see the slogan ‘Every Child Matters’, it’s just that – Every Child. For humanity’s sake, we need to look at the health, protection, safety and well-being for all children. That is our focus this year.”

Deputy Mayor Don Matheson representing Council said that “Rotary plays a very important part in our town, whether it’s the hospital, recreation, splash pad or the accessible playground, Rotary is there.  This new Peace Pole is a symbol of peace and prosperity around the world and the fact it is in the six languages of the UN means it reaches out to everybody.”

Rotary Reflections by past-District Governor Tony Sheard:

“Rotary was instrumental in the establishment of the UN and Rotary’s continued involvement in peace can be summarized into four key areas:

Firstly, peace is much more than the absence of violence. The Rotary Positive Peace Academy introduced the concept of Positive Peace, which describes the attitudes, structures, and institutions that underpin and sustain peaceful societies. The Academy has developed a conceptual framework, known as the ‘Pillars of Peace’, that outlines a system of eight factors that work together to build positive peace. Derived from a statistical analysis of over 24,000 datasets, the ‘Pillars of Peace’ provides a roadmap to overcome adversity and conflict, and to build lasting peace.

Secondly, we cannot accept continued conflict as a way of life. Rotary projects provide training that fosters understanding and provides communities with the skills to resolve conflicts.

Thirdly, by carrying out service projects and supporting peace fellowships and scholarships, our members take action to address the underlying causes of conflict, including poverty, discrimination, ethnic tension, lack of access to education, and unequal distribution of resources.

Here are some examples of Rotary’s work in this area:

  • Each year 130 Peace Fellow Scholarships are awarded by the Rotary Foundation for peace-builder training at one of Rotary’s seven peace centres (soon to be eight).
  • There are now over 1,500 Rotary Peace Fellow alumni working globally on peace initiatives.
  • Rotary’s Youth Exchange Program is the largest exchange program of its type in the world and promotes cultural understanding. The Southampton club is in the process of kick starting this program in Saugeen Shores following a COVID-19 enforced break.
  • Rotary’s Global Scholar Program provides bursaries for international studies
  • Through mediation Rotary members have negotiated ceasefires to allow children to be vaccinated against polio in war torn areas.
  • Through our various Action Groups Rotarians tackle such diverse issues as human trafficking, slavery, refugees and forced migration.
  • Through our Rotary Friendship Exchange program, Rotarians get the opportunity to visit fellow Rotarians to experience different cultures and build lasting friendships. Members form both the Southampton and Port Elgin Clubs have participated in this program.
  • Through our support for Humanitarian, Clean Water, Child and Maternal Health Projects we provide aid in difficult areas. Southampton Rotary has a great track record of leading 2 global water projects and one maternal and child health project in the past 5 years and is a regular supporter of Shelter Box and Aqua Box in providing disaster relief.
  • Through the promotion of Peace Conferences like the one held last month on Ukraine, Rotarians from around the world interacted virtually with members from Ukraine to better understand the issues first hand and develop action plans to help.

Fourthly,  Rotary members have acted as respected and impartial participants during peace processes and post-conflict rebuilding to help facilitate creating inclusive and resilient communities.

Rotary Clubs commitment around the world, to peace building today answers new challenges: how can we make the greatest possible impact and how can we achieve our vision of lasting change? Rotary is approaching the concept of peace with greater cohesion and inclusivity, broadening the scope of what we mean by peace building, and finding more ways for people to get involved.

Overall Rotary strives to create environments where peace can happen.

Recently, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gave a somber assessment of global affairs in an opening address at the 77th UN General Assembly in front of world leaders. The first in person session for 3 years.

He said,

“Our world is in peril and paralyzed. We are gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction,” adding the international community “is not ready or willing to tackle the challenges it faces’ — including climate change, poverty and war.  The United Nations charter and the ideals it represents are in jeopardy and we have a duty to act,”

Today, with events in Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar, there over 90 million (Source UNCHR) people displaced as a result of conflict, violence, persecution, and human rights violations.

Half of them are children.  Just imagine … that is 2.3 times the population of Canada

The message to me, from that, is the world needs more Rotarians!

In conclusion, we hope that the dedication of this Peace Pole will give our community and visitors to this park the opportunity to pause, reflect and think about what small steps they may take to foster a peaceful environment.”