The change within

These are times that cry out for peace. The Middle East is in its most volatile ​condition in years. The war in Ukraine is the largest in Europe since World War ​Two, and there are armed conflicts in Sudan and parts of Central Africa. Nearly ​every continent is experiencing a major armed conflict.

Rotary has a vital role to play in advancing the cause of peace — I often say ​Rotary needs to work toward peace as aggressively as those who wish to wage ​war. It’s the spirit found in our vision statement: “Together, we see a world where ​people unite and take action to create lasting change — across the globe, in our ​communities, and in ourselves.”

We must never lose track of that last call — that to bring about change in the ​world, we need to foster change within.

It is up to us to model peacebuilding behavior among each other. We can do ​better than questioning the motives of one another and jumping to the harshest ​possible explanation.

After hearing words that might strain or offend us, we have an opportunity to ​ask, with compassion and curiosity, the intent of those offending words. And ​then we have another opportunity to repair the breach.

“It is in times of crisis and despair ​that we need empathy most of all.”

If we wish to be a beacon to the world, let us start by being so to one another. ​Let’s help each other find greater understanding and productive alternatives to ​words that cause hurt and distrust. And let’s stick to our principles, but never ​doubt the sincerity of each other to end conflicts, not inflame them.

I’m reminded of a speech that U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy made on April 4, ​1968, that dreadful day when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. ​Kennedy was in Indianapolis speaking to an audience in a predominantly African ​American neighborhood where people had yet to learn that Dr. King had been ​killed.

He shared the terrible news. He honored Dr. King for all he had done for the ​cause of justice and peace. And then he connected with the fuming, grieving ​crowd by saying: “For those of you who are Black and are tempted to be filled ​with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I ​can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member ​of my family killed.”

It was the first time he had spoken publicly about President John F. Kennedy’s ​assassination. And while many American cities exploded in violence that night, ​Indianapolis did not.

It is in times of crisis and despair that we need empathy most of all. Empathy is ​the most powerful tool of peace, and it is vital if we are to take the first brave, ​humble steps to Create Hope in the World.

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