History’s longest and largest participation relay for world peace swept through Auckland and the central North Island in recent weeks, with thousands of school children clamouring to touch and hold the ceremonial peace torch that luminaries such as Mikhail Gorbachev and Mother Teresa once held aloft.
Now in its fourteenth running of the event in New Zealand, the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run featured two relay teams visiting greater Auckland, the Waikato and Rotorua/Tauranga areas and schools, sharing with city mayors, sports personalities and hosts of children the simple message that world peace is founded upon peace in our own lives – peace begins with you and me.
Named after its founder the late Sri Chinmoy, the Peace Run has visited over 140 countries and all seven continents in the past decade, with the peace torch having circumnavigated 15,000 kilometres around Australia, travelled from Cape Reinga to Bluff and inspired the dedication of over 200 cities to world peace. The Russian cosmonaut Gennady Strekalov even took the torch on the Mir space station to orbit the earth, a symbolic planetary gesture for a peaceful oneness-world. Organised entirely by volunteers, the Peace Run members are made up of runners from all walks of life, with eight different nationalities joining the recent relay in New Zealand.
Past and present supporters and patrons have included Pope John Paul, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Olympic great Carl Lewis, current and previous New Zealand Prime Ministers and Olympians and a host of world leaders. As a symbol of harmony, runners carry a flaming torch and pass it from hand to hand in thousands of communities the relay passes through, touching the lives of countless people in a truly grassroots event. “While running from one country to another in this Peace Run,” commented Sri Chinmoy, “we are transcending our capacities and at the same time, we are inviting the whole world to feel the supreme importance of oneness”.
An avid sportsman himself, Sri Chinmoy saw the Peace Run as an opportunity to give people a dynamic way of expressing their own hopes and dreams for a brighter future. As in the Olympic ideal of world peace through friendly games, over the past two decades the Peace Run relay has manifested the timeless ideal of bringing people together, looking for the things that unite us rather than divide us. In this spirit the Peace Run also honors notable peace servers in each community it passes through, offering a Torch Bearer Award to individuals who in their own lives have contributed to peace, cultural understanding and harmony.
Local runner Daniel Rubin was deeply inspired by being on the whole two weeks of the New Zealand event, and especially by the peace education program it shares with schools. “ Children can learn to be peaceful, to get on very well with each other from the very beginning of their lives – it’s part of their cultural growing and training. The opposite is also true. But watching the torch pass from hand to hand, I was struck by the innate goodness in the hearts of all the children we met. The kids everywhere were so inspired by the torch and what it means and embodies. Those who touch the torch are truly touched by the torch in return. It was a beacon of inspiration and somehow brought to life the simple message of the relay, that in our own lives we have the power to positively contribute to a better world. We each can make a difference!”
Sri Chinmoy had great faith in the children of the world, seeing in them the promise of a new era for mankind. In his popular book about children, A Child’s Heart and a Child’s Dreams, he writes:
“God’s creation is like a lotus or a rose. Each petal is unique in its own way. A child is an especially significant part of God’s creation, since God is dreaming in and through every child and manifesting Himself in an unprecedented way. Each child is bringing down a new message from God which was not known before. Naturally, if the world accepts it, the world is getting new light, new power, new joy and new love.
On today’s child depends tomorrow’s future. We talk about perfection, but this perfection that we speak of will come only from children — from a child’s heart and a child’s dreams. The old creation has to surrender to the new. The old creation means the life that does not want to see the truth, accept the truth or fulfil the truth. Who wants to see, accept and fulfil the truth? The child. Only a child has the capacity to feel that every day is a new dawn. Only a child is inspired to run, to do something, to give something to the world every day”.