Achieving peace in our world, whether we’re talking about the global community or even our own “inner circle,” can feel like a daunting challenge at best and, at times, simply impossible. As often happens with endeavors that feel too big to tackle, we shake our heads and simply wish things could be better. In particular, we who are not policymakers may feel there is not much we can do when it comes to peacebuilding.
However, the two of us (and more than a million of our fellow Rotarians around the world) believe there is plenty that we can do to promote peace, whether it’s as individuals or by joining together with like-minded people!
Indeed, peacebuilding is at the heart of everything Rotary stands for. Through its service, Rotary is dedicated to causes that improve lives and communities around the world, including those in our own backyard. Clubs undertake local and international projects that fall into one of Rotary’s seven Areas of Focus. Individually, Rotarians act as peacebuilders when using The Four-Way Test in personal and professional relationships: 1) Is it the truth? 2) Is it fair to all concerned? 3) Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 4) Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”
Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution is one of Rotary International’s seven areas of focus. What is peace? Peace is not merely the absence of violence. Peace ensures that there is justice for all. Peacebuilding is about people-building and community-building. When we improve the human condition, we build peace. Whenever a Rotarian executes the Rotary International mission of “Service Above Self,” you can bet someone’s life (or many people’s lives) are being improved in some way. And that will, indeed, lead to a more peaceful existence.
Bakersfield College’s Peace Initiative was created to heighten awareness of the importance of actively pursuing and building peace. The centerpiece of the initiative is a series of Peace Gardens on campus, plus a variety of projects done in partnership with community groups that prioritize peacebuilding. Groups like Rotary.
When Michael Henstra, a 41-year Rotarian and member of Rotary E-Club of One World D5240, contacted BC’s President, Sonya Christian about the possibility of bringing BC and Rotary together to further strengthen the college’s effort, his enthusiasm quickly spread! Henstra and Bakersfield East Rotary Club member Fernando Aguirre then joined with BC and others from Rotary to explore the possibility of placing “peace poles” on BC’s current and future campuses in the county. More than 250,000 peace poles have been placed in 190 countries, and each one features the phrase, “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in multiple languages. They are an internationally recognized symbol of the pursuit of peace around the world.
Since that first meeting, local Rotary Clubs have established a Rotary Peace Initiative fund at the BC Foundation, along with plans to integrate custom-made poles into the Peace Gardens on campus. In true Rotarian fashion, Aguirre has already begun expanding the effort, with plans to install poles throughout the community as well.
Earlier this year, President Christian initiated a Peace Seminar Series to create a forum for the community to discuss this important topic. Seminars have focused on Mothers for Peace, and Educators for Peace. We invite you to participate in our next Peace Seminar, “BC and Rotary: Building Peace in Kern County” at 4 p.m. Tuesday, June 22. Michael Henstra and Fernando Aguirre will join BC President Sonya Christian and BC Foundation Executive Director Cheryl Scott (also Rotarians) for a discussion about personal motivation and commitment, and real “boots on the ground” projects that make life better in our community.
Whether you are a Rotarian, you’re interested in becoming one, or you simply want to learn how to become a peacebuilder yourself, we hope you will join in the conversation. You can register for the event by visiting https://www.bakersfieldcollege.edu/event/bc-and-rotary-building-peace-in-kern-county.
Mindy Wilmot is professor/reference librarian at Bakersfield College and Cheryl Scott is executive eirector of the BC Foundation.