RI President November Message

R. Gordon R. McInally
President 2023-24

Next year, Rotary takes a step toward supporting peacebuilding in the Middle East and North Africa region when recruitment begins for our newest peace center in partnership with Bahçeşehir University (BAU) in Istanbul.

A series of events in the coming year will recognize the new center at BAU and Rotary’s work to promote peace. The 2024 Rotary International Convention in May will mark 25 years since the first Rotary Peace Centers were announced — coincidentally at the Rotary Convention in Singapore in 1999. Recruitment for the first cohort of Rotary Peace Fellows at BAU also starts in 2024, and selected candidates will begin their program in early 2025.

Since its beginning, the peace centers program has prepared more than 1,700 peace fellows working in more than 140 countries to create a more peaceful world. That is certainly worth celebrating, but Rotary Peace Fellows are more than statistics on a page. Their actions have helped Create Hope in the World and will continue to do so.

For example, Jennifer Montgomery and Gorett Komurembe — peace fellows from the program at Makerere University in Uganda — are co-founders of Magenta Girls Initiative. The international nongovernmental organization equips Ugandan girls and young women with the support and tools to overcome harmful gender norms, generational poverty, gender-based violence, trafficking, and trauma.

Ndzi Divine Njamsi, another peace fellow who studied at Makerere, has taken lessons learned about Positive Peace and is sharing them with students of his own in Cameroon. He became interested in the Rotary Positive Peace Activator training program after witnessing extremism, online hate speech, and violence in Cameroon. Since completing the program, he has brought his lessons on peace to students at the Yaoundé International Business School and other organizations in the Central Africa country.

The world needs more people like the graduates of the program at Makerere and our other peace fellows. To that end, we can all advance peace by encouraging our local peacebuilders to learn more about Rotary and apply for this impactful fellowship. Rotary members can also mentor candidates for the fellowship. Or you can work with peace fellows who have already graduated. They probably have an initiative or two that would benefit from your help.

Our peace centers in North America, Europe, Africa, Australia, and Asia depend on financial support as well. The program at BAU was made possible thanks to a generous gift of $15.5 million to The Rotary Foundation from the Otto and Fran Walter Foundation.

This new Rotary Peace Center will offer a one-year professional development certificate in peace and development studies for fellows focusing on peacebuilding within the Middle East and North Africa region.

Peace must be waged persistently; it is the soil where hope takes root. But as with any journey, we take one step at a time. Let’s take those steps together.