On rare occasions, politicians put politics aside to join together for a greater cause. The Grand Opening Ceremony of the Asia-Pacific World Harmony Run 2012 on 5 March was one such occasion.

National’s Nikki Kaye and Labour’s Jacinda Ardern were among MPs and international diplomats who passed an Olympic-style peace torch from hand to hand in Aotea Square, before it was carried by runners across the country. The torch relay then continued through nearly a dozen Asia-Pacific nations including Australia, Indonesia, Japan and China.

The ceremony featured an impressive line-up of speakers and performers. Allison Roe, who broke the women’s world marathon record in 1981, was the Master of Ceremonies. Speakers included Adhiratha Keefe, who has served United Nations agencies for three decades and travelled all the way from New York City to be part of the running team. He was the first UN staff member to swim the English Channel.

National MP Nikki Kaye emphasised the importance of loving one other so that we can live in peace, and Labour MP Jacinda Ardern related her experiences helping people from diverse cultures get along. Other dignitaries included MPs Melissa Lee and Rajen Prasad, as well as diplomatic representatives from Australia, China and Japan.

A celebration of harmony would not be complete without music, and there was plenty to entertain the midday crowd on a hot Monday in the Square. School kids sang of their dreams for a better world, the innocence of youth pleading with the adult world to bring peace at last. Eden Roberts, a talented songwriter from Western Springs College, sang an original composition reminiscent of early swing jazz. Faith Miru from Hamilton, armed with nothing but a small guitar and a sonorous voice, had the whole of Aotea Square in rapture as she fused reggae-style riffs with words of unity and heart.   

Former Waitakere mayor Bob Harvey and community organiser Laurie Ross were presented with Torch-Bearer Awards by the World Harmony Run team. Both recipients were recognised as having delivered outstanding services to the cause of world peace, and most recently were involved in the recent official proclamation of Auckland as a ‘City for Peace’.

Once the merriment was over, it was time for the hard yards. Matt Maihi of Ngati Whatua O Orakei offered a karakia to officially commence the torch relay, before Auckland Marathon women’s champion Lisa Robertson led the World Harmony Run team down Queen Street. The relay would reach Australia by 21 March. The Asia-Pacific relay runners then converge with a World Harmony Run team starting in Europe at the final meeting point of Astana, Kazakhstan on 20 July.

“The runners visit schools five days a week to spread the message that world peace must begin with you and me.” says national coordinator Jogyata Dallas. “New Zealanders are kind-hearted people who believe in peace, and we always get a really supportive response up and down the country.”

 

The World Harmony Run was founded by the peace visionary Sri Chinmoy in 1987, and involves over 100 nations biennially. This year marks its global 25th anniversary. Sri Chinmoy offered regular peace meditations at the United Nations from 1970 until his passing in 2007. He also published hundreds of books, many of which focused on the relationship between inner and outer peace. A quote from one of his lectures on the subject was read out at the ceremony, and it provides an illuminating insight into how we can all contribute to building a brighter world:

“Right now fear, doubt, anxiety, tension and disharmony are reigning supreme. But there shall come a time when this world of ours will be flooded with peace. Who is going to bring about that radical change? It will be you: you and your sisters and brothers, who are an extension of your reality-existence. It will be you and your oneness-heart, which is spread throughout the length and breadth of the world. Peace is unity. Peace is oneness, within and without.”

 

A version of this article originally appeared in ‘Indianz Outlook’, April 2012