Personal reflections from the Berlin peace forum

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By Susanne Büttner, online editor of the German Rotary Magazine and a member of Rotaract

Over the past years, I have been fortunate to attend many Rotary International events in various countries. At each, I have enjoyed the hospitality and friendliness of the hosts, so I was excited when I heard that RI President Sakuji Tanaka chose to hold the first of three Rotary Global Peace Forums in my home country. I would have an opportunity to return some of the hospitality I have received.

More than 1,800 Rotarians, Rotaractors, Youth Exchange Students, Peace Fellows, spouses and guests from 46 countries attended the forum. Isn’t that amazing? The forum included guests from Lebanon as well as Ghana, Canada, Poland, and France, to name just a few countries.

Less than 25 years ago this would not have been possible. Germany was divided by a wall. The theme of this peace conference, “Peace Without Borders,” would have sounded like nothing but a dream.

I belong to the last generation born in the former German Democratic Republic and as a child I did not understand why my family and I were not allowed to see my cousins who lived in Western Germany. Or why we could not travel to all those places my Dad told me about, but that he had only seen on pictures as well. What would you tell your child?

The division of our country is history. But in other parts of the world, there are still man-made borders that block peace. It became clear to my parents that they did not want to raise their child in an environment of suffering and persecution, so the finally took huge risks to flee the country. Thanks to people like my parents, and the countless people that took to the street to demonstrate with candles during the friendly revolution of 1989, we now have the chance to meet in Berlin to hold the first Rotary peace forum. Just a few steps away from where the Berlin Wall used to split the city and country.

It was such a motivating weekend. It is not a matter of course that people from all over the world gather together in one room with no anger, fear, or suspicion. But with Rotary it is. And this is one of the many reasons why I am thankful to be part of this great organization.

In the Berlin Declaration of Peace  that was signed during the Global Peace Forum it says “Peace is not a final destination to be reached, but an active and continuous process. All of us are capable of becoming peacemakers in our own lives, and through our words and actions, we will demonstrate that peace is possible.” It is now on us to turn these words into deeds.

Source: Rotary Voices

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