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December 2018-January 2019 | Articles

Not bitter but a supporter of peace

Not bitter but a supporter of peace

Ken Robertshaw knows all too well the horrors of terrorism. In 1997, his aunt, her daughter and granddaughter were among 62 people, mainly tourists, who were killed at an archaeological site in Luxor, Egypt.

Militants, disguised as security officers, stormed Deir el-Bahari, one of Luxor’s major tourist attractions, and indiscriminately opened fire.

There are no thoughts of anger, or revenge, instead the Halifax Rotarian has become a mainstay of the Rotary Peace Fellows programme at the University of Bradford.

Ken has just completed a three-year term as Host Area Co-ordinator, but has been involved with the Bradford project for most of its 19 years.

ken robershaw rotary peace

Ken Robertshaw has been involved with Rotary peace projects for two decades.

“I am a huge supporter of grass roots peace work,” he insisted.

“Those who killed my family claimed to be Islamic terrorists, but they weren’t. They were just criminal terrorists.

“I have a long-held belief that the ones who perpetrated these acts are the ones who have been indoctrinated.

“They are weak-willed people, but if we can get into the grass roots, such as the Peace Fellows do, and educate the younger end to stay away from that sort of thing – then we are having an impact.”

The University of Bradford is one of six centres which provide Rotary Peace Fellows with an opportunity to pursue a Master’s degree in conflict resolution, peace studies, international relations and related area.

Each year, 10 students are taken on the 15-month course at Bradford, Tokyo, Uppsala (Sweden), Duke University and the University of North Carolina, Brisbane and Thailand.

These Rotary Peace Fellowships cover the students’ costs in the hope that they will become catalysts for peace and conflict resolution, as well as prevention.

I am a huge supporter of grass roots peace work. Those who killed my family claimed to be Islamic terrorists, but they weren’t. They were just criminal terrorists.”

As Host Area Co-ordinator, Ken’s role has been as a link between The Rotary Foundation, which pays for everything, the Rotary staff in Evanston, who administer the project, plus liaising with the university and Peace Fellows.

Ken has seen the programme grow over the past 19 years.

Rotary, he believes, is the first organisation in the world which has done anything like this, bringing people together from different walks of life to study conflict resolution and peace negotiation.

The Peace Fellows programme is attracting a diverse range of people globally who are in positions where they can make a difference.

Rotary is having a big clout in peace and conflict resolution.”

“I am proud of the fact that Rotary is affecting some big organisations, the US military in particular,” added Ken. “This year we have a senior police officer from Brazil in the graduation class.

“We are getting more people involved at grass-roots level, people who then go on to positions of influence. It is becoming a graduate management programme.

“They graduated from university, they have gone to work in the peace and conflict field in the widest sense. They come here for an extra piece of kit in the toolbox and then they go back to a higher management position where they have an effect.

“One of the Peace Fellows has been head-hunted to work for the Carter Centre in Atlanta, another young lady has been approached by a major European organisation based in the UK.

“It sounds awfully smug, but Rotary is having a big clout in peace and conflict resolution.”

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