Now when I ask this question, I’m not suggesting a revolutionary change to the Christian calendar, nor am I proposing that our streets should permanently be decorated and resound to brass bands playing Christmas Carols.
No, Christmas is a special time – particularly for young children, agog to learn what Santa will bring; truly it comes but once a year.
What I am referring to is the description of Christmas as the “season of peace, goodwill to all men”. Why just Christmas?
Someone said to me recently that peace is “in Rotary’s DNA”.
Christmas is a special time – particularly for young children, agog to learn what Santa will bring; truly it comes but once a year.”
He wasn’t just referring to Rotary’s honourable and significant record in the founding of the United Nations 75 years ago; nor was he referring solely to our Peace Scholarship programme.
In truth, so much of what Rotary does promotes peace.
How can a community; a society; a nation be at peace if it is locked in grinding poverty; if it lacks access to the basic essentials of life, such as clean water; if it lacks access to adequate educational or medical facilities?
Every time we undertake a humanitarian project, we are in some small way promoting peace somewhere across the globe.
Of course, the peace scholars’ programme is an important vehicle through which we can promote peace; alumni of that programme are every day engaged to that end, working for supranational bodies, governments, or non-governmental organisations.
Every time we undertake a humanitarian project, we are in some small way promoting peace somewhere across the globe.”
I don’t think that, generally, we recognise the contribution Rotary has made to peace and conflict resolution in this way.
But often Rotarians say to me, “but what can we do to promote peace; for example, we can’t stop fighting in Syria?”
Actually, there’s quite a lot every Rotarian can do – and not only through humanitarian projects; and not only through donating to The Rotary Foundation. There is conflict in our own communities, and we as Rotarians can play our part in resolving it.
There is bullying in schools and colleges – and, disquietingly, modern connectivity offers more ways for bullies to cause distress and harm, through cyber-bullying.
Rotarians can work with educational establishments to support programmes and initiatives to counter bullying, and the consequences of it for victims.
And the last edition of Rotary magazine told the story of how Rotarians in Tavistock are exercising leadership in their community to find a fair, balanced and inclusive solution to potential conflict over the statue of Sir Francis Drake in their town. That’s the kind of leadership which Rotary can offer.
So, my Christmas-time message to you is: make every day the season of peace and goodwill to all”.