Running with the Torch in New Zealand
This article was written in 1993 following the New Zealand leg of the World Harmony Run that year.
On Sunday evening incoming black clouds cover the Waitakere Ranges west of Auckland, hinting at rain, but on Monday morning the sky is clear for the beginning of the World Harmony Run in New Zealand.
We have planned a three-day Auckland wide relay, then three days of regional runs through each of the four largest cities to the South. Final destination – Wellington; our capital and southernmost point of World Harmony Run '93.
Precious McKenzie, power-lifting legend, meets us at our opening ceremony in Manukau, where 600 children stand to cheer the diminutive local hero. In this southern city, with its alliance of Polynesian, Maori and European New Zealand cultures, the issue of peace has immediate relevance. A household name, Precious gives the Harmony Run's theme of oneness a solid credibility.
Bald-headed for many years, Precious points with friendly irreverence to the equally bald headmaster and claims that they share the same barber. Everywhere there is laughter, smiling faces, smiling eyes. As he talks and jokes the barriers are tumbling down and we are dissolving into an easy familiarity. He is reaching out with his heart and offering the message of the Harmony Run in a powerful and memorable way.
Day two calls for a hectic tour of twelve schools in West Auckland. There are relay races, cultural items and songs; posters and banners are displayed, and the torch is touched by thousands of small hands.
A national children's TV show sends a camera crew and celebrity presenter along for a whole day. The programme will be seen by most of the country's youth, appropriately, for tomorrow's harmony grows in the hearts of today's children.
Our celebrities bring something unique and fresh to the Harmony Run, a special way of touching the children and making the message of the relay accessible and grounded in real life. The children know and love these faces from their favourite soaps and dramas – and here they are in person, talking about the Harmony Run.
Actor Tom Kline from 'Shortland Street' invites 700 schoolchildren to close their eyes and to feel that peace is a light in their hearts. ‘Now offer this light to your friends, to everyone in the room, now to the kids in Sarajevo, kids in Russia, kids in Somalia, kids who have no homes, no parents, no love. Feel something for them. They're part of our family too.’
At first awkward, the kids are suddenly moved – the Harmony Run comes to life, its message clearly felt. They rush to hold the torch. TV sports commentator Darren Young gets the tougher kids to 'high-five' with the person next to him and make a new friend. Pandemonium reigns as 700 children slap hands. They'll remember the fun and laughter after the day is over and something else will be left too, a seed of understanding.
At the middle of the next day we reach the great volcanic plateau. Snow-covered wintering mountains rise up on the horizon, a vast blue lake stretches before us and on all sides are the pale blue, faraway silhouettes of further mountain ranges. Everyone wants to run with the torch across these beautiful landscapes and soon our whole team is out on the road.
Later that evening we learn that Wellington will become a Sri Chinmoy Peace Capital – the fourth in the world. It's one of many New Zealand cities that have been dedicated to peace and honours both the real contribution of the World Harmony Run to New Zealand and the vision of its founder, Sri Chinmoy, for whom peace is both a supreme reality and highest achievement.
It's a wonderful finale to our Harmony Run. We feel privileged to carry the torch for this emerging new world of peace and to be a part of the global Harmony Run with its supreme and timeless message.
Returning to Auckland, we stop by a mountain lake to enjoy the immense silence. There on a small sign we place our last Harmony Run aphorism where it flutters like a small, triumphant flag. Someone will read it.
Peace in the oneness-world-home is the supreme fulfillment of humanity's birthless and deathless promise to God.
– Sri Chinmoy.