One’s religion is one’s own possession and he has a right to it.” – Paul Harris

Rotarians Inspire Social and Religious Tolerance

The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service is the very first guiding principle of Rotary International. As members of one of the world’s largest humanitarian service organization these acquaintances develop into lasting friendships of common bonds in “service above self.” The traditional dividing lines of society hold no constraints upon Rotarians, as they engage in civic service that benefits their entire community regardless of race, sex, religion or politics. This unique fellowship of Rotarians offers hope to a modern world that is increasingly polarized and suspicious of “others,” especially when it comes to religious affiliation. Rotarians extend this hope far beyond gatherings of their local Rotary club or district. Every Rotarian is a peacebuilder because they share the guiding principles of Rotary with others in their communities and form alliances with many like-minded organizations.

RAGFP Immediate Past Chair Brian Farr (left) joins religious leaders of all faiths at the 7th Meeting of Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders held in Salt Lake City, Utah, in November 2016. The Elijah Interfaith Institute is a co-sponsor of the historic Declaration of Friendship Across Religions.

One such opportunity championed by RC McMinnville Sunrise Assistant Governor Larry Strober and many other Rotarian peacebuilders is a historic declaration of religious tolerance and friendship that will unite world leaders from all religions at the Peace Palace in The Hague in June 2020. On this date, world religious leaders will sign the Declaration of Friendship Across Religions and officially codify a joint statement of world religious friendship made on June 14th, 2017.

Watch the Historic “Make Friends” Video

Of course, Rotary International is a non-sectarian, secular humanitarian service organization. Yet, this historic declaration of religious friendship is recognized by many Rotarian peacebuilders, like Larry and other RAGFP members, as an essential ingredient of peace and conflict mediation where sectarian violence threatens innocents, or neighbors of differing faiths are in dispute. It offers an example of how Rotarians help unify different factions within their communities and greater society as a foundational component of modern peacebuilding. For instance, Rotarians around the world celebrated World Polio Day on October 24, 2018 in the enlightenment that polio is an equal opportunity disease. It attacks blindly, never considering a victim’s religion, political ideology nor skin color. And Rotarians fought this disease to end polio on its own terms. Rotary reduced polio cases by 99.9% by “making friends” across traditional dividing lines and providing vaccinations to all peoples and nations in equal proportions. Rotarian peacebuilders wage peace with this same enlightenment by understanding conflicts often arise when people retreat from one another into their own sectarian or political factions. The simple act of purposely making friends with someone of a different religion is a basic but powerful peace action practiced by Rotarians since the establishment of Rotary International.