With the need for peace in the world today so great, and with the responsibility resting upon all of us to bring it about, Rotary International (RI) held a Global Peace Forum at the Convention Center in Honolulu on Jan. 25 to 27 to pursue that task.
World unity, brotherhood in its true sense, was the highlight of the forum's theme of "Peace Through Service." It offered the opportunity for participants of different ages from different parts of the world to share ideas and develop strategies that can change the world along with the support of Rotary and Rotarians.
With a spirit of aloha and harmony, the participants focused on the importance of conserving and protecting our shared environmental resources. Simultaneously, young adults were encouraged to adopt a global perspective on behalf of peace.
Team Maui, 28 students representing 10 Maui County high schools and Rotary clubs, including Molokai, attended the Rotary International Peace Forum on Jan. 25-27. “This weekend, I learned how to express my ideas on behalf of peace,” said Tiara Sakumoto, front row left, a sophomore at Kamehameha Schools of Maui. “I also learned that I can make a difference in this world, even if I am young.”
Photo: Paul Janes-Brown
The program began with an introduction to Hawai'i and the extraordinary guest speakers, along with a message from Gov. Neil Abercrombie. The workshops and discussions that followed supported unique perspectives on how to accomplish peace through service.
RI President Sakuji Tanaka's vision is to convene Rotarians in locations most affected by World War II where healing has become most visible: Berlin, Honolulu and Hiroshima. Honolulu was chosen because Hawai'i is an example of how people from different ethnicities can live peacefully together.
"First, we must engage our youth in conversations about wars, conflicts and peace," said Tanaka. "Second, we must nurture their ideas on what can be done to resolve the conflicts. Then we bring them to the Peace Forum to share their ideas and learn from each other about peaceful resolutions from all over the globe," he said.
"Team Maui, 28 students representing 10 Maui County high schools and Rotary Clubs, including Molokai, made a powerful impact on the attendees at the Global Peace Forum," said Joanne Laird, assistant governor of Rotary District 5000 and past president of the Kihei Sunrise Rotary Club.
"Demonstrating our true aloha spirit, these young leaders met hundreds of people from around the world and greeted them with friendly smiles," she said. The students attended project planning workshops and came home with ideas that addressed needs they identified in the Maui community. The students agreed to meet monthly to move their projects ahead.
"My experience at the Global Peace Forum allowed me to find my spark, to realize I have a voice of change along with other people my age to make a difference within our schools, community and even our nations," said Paris Sensano, a sophomore at Maui High School.
"Our world has become much smaller through the advances of communication technologies, and no group is more aware of or attuned to this than the youth of today," said Tanaka.
"This makes the imperative for peace more urgent than ever before," he said. "As we look at the world of tomorrow, we are challenged to work today for the protection of our environment and for continued participation in the Peace Forum projects."
"Within the three days, we developed a bond among us all," said Rowan Mulligan, a junior at Seabury Hall. "Now, all together, we can move forward to creating a better future with support from the adults around us and the determination that comes from within us."
Every workshop was designed to be interactive and thought-provoking. The Peace Forum focused on providing participants with concepts and ideas for action. The four conceptual categories featured were service, communication, collaboration and action.
"I learned about the different dreams and visions everyone has," said Alicia Huliganga, a junior at Lahainaluna. "I discovered what they did in order to grow their dreams into plans and achieve it, and I am determined to bring my dreams to life."
Topics shared included disease prevention and treatment, water and sanitation, maternal and child health, basic education and literacy, economic development, cultural understanding and conflict resolution, interpersonal communication and caring for our national environment.
"The Peace Forum is a simple first step towards world peace and understanding. But, it can change the world," said Tanaka.
"This event has given me the chance to see more about how the world is and what people do to help it," said Chase Nakagawa, a sophomore at Kamehameha Schools Maui. "It was amazing to see people of all races and religions come together for one similar goal," he said. "It really opened my eyes."
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Saturday evening's keynote speaker, was an outstanding example for the students. Suu Kyi is the founding member of Burma's National League for Democracy and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her non-violent struggle for social equality and human rights.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I was blessed to have been chosen to hear and learn about Global Peace," said Isabella Jorgensen, a junior at Seabury Hall. The compassion and kindness of the Rotarians and global diplomats was inspiring, and I can only hope to follow in their footsteps."