by John Borst, PP Rotary Club of Dryden, ON

It will come as no surprise that I have been pondering the question, “What can or should Rotary do in light of President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigrants and Refugees”.

It is without a doubt one of the most despicable decisions ever made by any American leader. It is also really heartening to see that many Americans find it as un-American as much as the rest of the World.

It is too easy to fall into the trap of falling back on Policy 2.090 and Article 16, Section 1. This is a Neville Chamberlain kind of moment for American Rotarians and by extension all lead_300Rotarians. By our silence, we are party to this travesty of justice. We appease Trump and his ilk and in doing so undermine the very principles upon which both the Republic and Rotary is built. To do nothing will place this moment alongside the 1939 infamy of denying 900 Jews entry to the US and returning 295 of them to the ovens of the Holocaust.

I also wonder how you can square Rotary’s actions in the pre-WWII period with the no-comment policy. Hitler effectively came to power in 1933 when he was made Chancellor by the President of the Weimar Republic. By 1937 Rotary International, at a time when Paul Harris was still very much alive, disbanded all Rotary Clubs in Germany as well as clubs in other countries supporting the Nazi Party. That is an action which spoke louder than words. It is also in stark contrast to the “no politics” position.

So what actions can Rotarians do as clubs which will “do good in the World” while sending a message to Trump and the rest of the World that Rotary still stands for the principles that have made America the envy of the free World?

Trump has suspended all refugees for 4 months while he reviews the vetting process. In that time every club in America could take on the challenge of sponsoring a refugee family. [Canada has a formal process for doing this. It takes about $35,000 to make this work for a year. ] It would take Rotary 4 months just to get organized. In the meantime, it would force politicians to consider implementing a vetting process in conjunction with a sponsorship programme.

Finally, one is correct to be concerned about attendance at the Atlanta Conference. It is not Rotarians from the 7 countries we need to worry about, it is those from the rest of the World who will use the opportunity to demonstrate their displeasure with America and Rotary if it remains silent on this issue; I for one am giving it serious thought.

This is an issue which gets to the very heart of what Rotary stands for: justice and equal treatment for all regardless of their creed, color, race, sexual orientation, handicap or nationality. Do we really want our integrity in tatters? Silence is impossible for Rotary and Rotarians when the question is as deeply moral as this one is.

Silence is impossible for Rotary and Rotarians when the question is as deeply moral as this one is. Action is required!

Read also: Text to Text: Comparing Jewish Refugees of the 1930s With Syrian Refugees Today