Starting a Rotary Peace Network
A frightening prospect is on the horizon: an era of major international conflicts. Samuel Huntington at Harvard is just one prominent commentator who warns of a “clash of civilizations.” Can Rotary help head off such disasters?
Clearly, defusing tensions requires major and sustained effort. The Rotary Club of North Bethesda would like to explore one particular way of lessening conflict. It proposes a pilot project for starting to build an international grass-roots network of Rotary clubs and individual Rotarians dedicated to mitigating tensions. Luckily, the multifarious alliances across national and civilizational boundaries that Rotary International has already created provide a foundation for building the intended network.
To promote cordial, respectful relations among peoples and civilizations is ultimately a matter of morality. Only people of good character can be expected to deal with others in a peaceful, considerate manner. To collect such people and have them influence their communities for the better has always been the central mission of Rotary. The Four Way Test sums up how human beings ought to interact. We want to show that the Test can also be applied to relations among peoples and countries. The Four Way Test is an ecumenical distillation of the great moral systems of the world. By pointing to a common human ground the Test points to a basis for peace.
The Rotary Club of North Bethesda wants to draw more attention to the Four Way Test and demonstrate its high relevance for international relations. The Club would like to designate one or more experienced and intellectually qualified Rotarians who can speak to clubs on the common human ground of the Four Way Test and show how it responds to the urgent need for reducing conflict. We want to approach clubs in another country about receiving these individuals as speakers and/or for informal discussion. The emissaries will stress the character traits that Rotary has always favored and explain how they can be fostered though education and upbringing. Clubs will be encouraged to use their influence in local institutions to ensure, in particular, that education supports the formation of this kind of character. The purpose is not to try to replace but to enhance local and national culture by strengthening their moral core. The people who are most rooted in the best of their own culture tend to be the most respectful towards people from other cultures, whereas, to coin a phrase, culturally rootless people are often the most ruthless.
Our emissaries will encourage other clubs to send out their own representatives. Spreading an improved understanding of the Four Way Test can evolve into a large grass-roots peace network. Our initiative is the first step in a program that may be for the decades. Having great potential, it might one day become a core program of Rotary International.
A caution: This pilot project and any larger RI program must be wise to the ways of the world. There is no room for feel-good emotion and merely boosterish “international understanding.” If conflict in the world is to be reduced, the project must be based on a hard-nosed, down-to-earth assessment of the moral and other obstacles that have to be overcome.