By Kees van der Pol, member of the Rotary Club of Nakusp, BC, Canada
The Indus Peace Park Project was conceived in 2015 when a Rotary District 5080 Friendship Exchange team I was leading was visiting Pakistan but unable to attend a cricket match in Faisalabad, Pakistan due to tensions between India and Pakistan. The group was also restricted from observing a Changing of the Guard ceremony on the India-Pakistan border at Wagah, between Lahore and Amritsar.
Since 2016, I have been the Rotary District 5080 Director of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park Association (WGIPPA). After our experience during the Friendship Exchange, our hosts in Pakistan, clubs in India, and my district in Canada thought it would be a great idea to create an international peace park between India and Pakistan. The WGIPPA brought about the world’s first peace park in 1932, between the Alberta, Canada and Montana, USA border. This landmark Peace Park is a model for international peace between nations. The idea of the Indus Peace Park was initiated by WGIPPA, with support from International Rotary District 5080 (US and Canada), Rotary District 3070 (India) and Rotary District 3272 (Pakistan). Further support came from several other districts from around the world. That led to the official launch taking place in the Parliament Buildings in London, UK, on 4 March, 2019.
Our hope is to create an “Oasis of Peace” within which people from both sides of the border can share their common heritage, celebrate, share meals, enjoy each other’s culture, and simply talk about how to make the future brighter for all. We want to provide an alternative to years of aggression and war, and be the beacon of hope in these troubled times. Our ultimate goal would be to create a Peace Centre within the park.
The plan is to secure an area of 200 hectares (500 acres) of land (100 in Pakistan, 100 in India), on either side of the border. This would be maintained by members of Rotary, Rotaract and Interact from both countries. Our goal is to create this international peace park by August 2022, which incorporates the sustainable environmental goals of Rotary International.
The Indus Peace Park Society, representing nine Rotary districts, has continued discussions worldwide on how to bring this project to life, despite ongoing tensions in the region. The Rotary Action Group for Peace (RAGFP) also supports this visionary project and facilitated further planning at the Rotary International Convention in Toronto, Canada in 2018.
We as Rotary members are part of a global network of problem-solvers who want to take action to create lasting change, and we want to encourage you to join our efforts. Visit the Indus Peace Park Project’s website to learn how your club or district can support this initiative.
Today, celebrate the International Peace Day by encouraging fellow members to spark peace within their communities worldwide. Check out ways you can create a more peaceful world. Gain more ideas by joining the conversation in a peace-related discussion group or post your club’s completed project on Rotary Showcase to inspire others. Comment below and let us know how you are taking action!