Rotary International Leader, Corporate CEO, Challenges All To Respect Religious Traditions
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
As I visit with social entrepreneurs around the world, I often find that religion is a motivating factor for their desire to do something that matters. Although rarely discussed, taking religion out of social entrepreneurship would, for some at least, rob it of its heart and soul. [It has been my honor to speak at a few Rotary District Conferences at discounted fees, but I’ve not been paid by Rotary International.]
Of course, many people approach social entrepreneurship from a purely secular point of view, including some who are religious, but that does not negate the influence of religion for others.
This week, I am attending the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions here in Salt Lake City, a gathering of 10,000 religious people looking to advance world peace, many through some form of social entrepreneurship.
K.R. Ravindran, President of Rotary International, a global organization with 34,000 clubs and 1.2 million members, most of whom are business and community leaders, will speak at the conference. He shared excerpts from his speech with me in advance.
Highlighting the importance of respect, he said, “ In Rotary, every religion is respected, every tradition is welcomed, and every conviction is honored, for in Rotary, we join in friendship and we are bonded by our dedication to service. ”
Rotary’s motto is “Service above self.” In a thought that is highly relevant for social entrepreneurs, Ravindran connects that motto to religion in his remarks, noting, “Service gives people a way to come together and a reason to work together for the common good, regardless of their differences. Charity and serving those with the greatest needs are ideas common to every religion, which is what Rotary is all about.”
Thirty years ago, Rotary took on the challenge of eradicating polio. At that time, there were about 350,000 cases of polio each year. In 2014, there were just 356 cases, reflecting a 99.9 percent reduction. The eradication of polio now appears certain within this decade.
Of this effort, Ravindran says, “Rotary’s decades-long fight to end polio is perhaps the greatest example of a project that has united every Rotary member around the world in pursuit of a single, shared goal”
On Friday, October 16, 2015 at noon Eastern, Ravindran will join me here for a live discussion about the role of religion in business and social entreprneurship. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Rotary International:
Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects 1.2 million members of more than 34,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work improves lives at both the local and international levels, from helping families in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world.
K. R. Rivindran, President of Rotary International, courtesy of Rotary International
K.R. Ravindran is CEO and founder of Printcare PLC, a publicly listed printing, packaging, and digital media solutions company. It is arguably the world’s largest supplier of tea bag packaging, catering to nearly every major tea brand, with manufacturing facilities in Sri Lanka and India. Printcare is the winner of national and international awards of excellence. Ravindran has been a featured speaker at several international print and packaging forums.
Ravindran also serves on the board of several other companies in Sri Lanka and India and charitable trusts, including the MJF (Dilmah) Charitable Foundation. He is the founding president of the Rotary-sponsored Sri Lanka Anti Narcotics Association, the largest such agency in Sri Lanka. During the country’s civil war, Ravindran was involved in the business community efforts to find peaceful solutions to the conflict and was a featured speaker at the United Nations-sponsored peace conference in New York for the Sri Lankan diaspora in 2002.
A third generation Rotarian and a member himself since the age of 21, Ravindran has served on the Rotary International Board of Directors and The Rotary Foundation Board of Trustees and as RI treasurer.
As his country’s national PolioPlus chair, Ravindran headed a joint task force of the Sri Lankan government, UNICEF, and Rotary and worked closely with UNICEF to successfully negotiate a ceasefire with the northern militants during National Immunization Days. Aided by Rotary’s efforts, Sri Lanka reported its last case of polio in 1994.
He also chaired the Schools Reawakening project, in which Rotary District 3220 raised more than $12 million to rebuild over 20 tsunami-devastated schools to benefit 14,000 children. He continues to play a role in his club’s project to build a cancer prevention and early detection center in Sri Lanka. Once completed, it will be the only dedicated national facility to offer comprehensive screening and early detection services.
Ravindran is a recipient of The Rotary Foundation’s Citation for Meritorious Service, Distinguished Service Award, and Service Award for a Polio-Free World.
He and Vanathy have been married since 1975, and they have two children and a recently born grandchild.
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