Tonga 3 April: Nuku'alofa

Tonga embraces the Peace Run

A video of today's activities.

The Tongan Peace Run really took off today with a large program organised by our friends from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Education and Training. We started outside the Prime Minister’s Office. Unfortunately the Prime Minister was not well enough to attend but was represented by the Honourable Minister for Internal Affairs, Poasi Tei, and a Reverend who offered a prayer and blessing for the Peace Run.

The two started the run and passed the Torch to Tongan shot-put champion Atamaama.

We were extremely happy to be joined by a large contingent of elite athletes – runners, boxers and table tennis players. Their participation swelled our team, running from school to school for the entire day, helping our singing and holding the banner; it was absolutely Tonga’s Peace Run.

Students from Api-Foou College were lined up from the gate, all the way into the centre of the school grounds ...

... where they stopped in front of the statue of Christ.

The year 13 students in attendance were the only ones not sitting exams today. We were treated to their singing of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”, their voices blending beautifully.

Principal Father Eknasi Manu, who received the certificate and artwork, made his own passionate speech for Peace.

After all the students came together for a photo, they spontaneously all gathered around and sang a most beautiful song to the Peace Torch before handing it onto the Peace Runners to continue on its journey.

The run continues.

At Malia Tukui-l-Makulata Primary School we were greeted by the students waiting excitedly for our arrival.

They regaled us with very sweet singing and after the teachers led the run around the field, they farewelled the team with song ...

... the singing continued until we were out of sight.

Our team ran on ...

... with some taking a short breather in the team bus ...

... to Fasi Primary School to a very special welcome. Here decorated tables and chairs had been set up in the shade with special matting laid on the ground. Each of the team was garlanded.

The main organiser for the Tonga Peace Run Mr Onetoto Anisi speaking to the students.

After a delightful ceremony, the team members were presented with baskets of fruit and coconuts ...

... to be loaded on to the bus.

Presenting to the students at Tonga High School.

Their principal Mrs. Oketi Akauola, said ‘we are so lucky to live in a country that is still peaceful. And we thank you for the exercise for finding peace in our hearts. This is such an important thing for us all to do.” They intend to have the students write essays on Peace in their English class.

The next instruction was ‘we will have lunch under the mango trees’ – where trays of sandwiches appeared and the baskets of fruit were unpacked.

We all shared including our Police escort, the food, rest and companionship.

Maybe a little sluggish at first after lunch, we soon regained our pace and ran into Queen Salote College, to the most extraordinary welcome. The thousand students at this boarding school for girls were in a continuous line from the front gate then all the way around the large quadrangle.

While two torches were passed around in opposite directions their brass band played, songs were launched ...

... with break out taolunga dancing, substantially encouraged by the principal who later spoke of the need to be “peaceful with yourself, peaceful with others; peaceful with the world”.

As the students were waiting to receive the Peace Torch they started chanting "Peace Run!"

After the Peace Run presentation the grand finale was a rousing school chant, a warm up for the upcoming sports competition. The students and teachers were inspiring - as well as extremely entertaining: they were very soulful and receptive to the Peace Run.

Having been completely re-energised the team proceeded ...

... to St Andrew High School where we met the students in a more casual setting.

One of the students led them in welcome chants prior to our presentation of the Peace Run.

This teacher-Sister received the certificate and spoke very eloquently on Peace.

As the torch was passed among the students, many were keen for photos with their friends.

Running up to GPS Fanga o Pilolevu school we saw all the students in large circles, which quickly changed into columns all the way up the driveway.

The teachers were keen to have their chance to hold the torch and enjoyed a photograph together.

The young students were very enthusiastic as demonstrated by the big sprint with the torch straight down the field.

As we ran out on the way to the next school, many children ran up to the fence chanting "Peace Run!"

Tupou High School was only 100m away. Here we met with nearly 100 students in front of the school.

Teacher Asi Toutai Fale who has been teaching since the Peace Run began in 1987, accepted the Certificate and thanked the team for coming.

One of our youngest team members who ran with us all day, with her father holding the Peace Torch.

And so an extremely busy and hugely wonderful day drew to a close.