Belgium 11 February: Brussels

The EU President lights our Peace Torch

Ready....set....go! Today marked the start of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run. The location was the European capital of Brussels, Belgium. Nineteen Peace Runners from all over Europe convened for two days of action-packed and high-profile meetings.

We started off with a bang, as we were received by none other than the President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy.

He came to see us in the same park where three years ago he inaugurated the Sri Chinmoy Peace Tree.

President Van Rompuy officially launched the European Peace Run by lighting four Peace Torches, representing the four corners of Europe.

It was the third time the President came out to support the Peace Run and we can’t say how much this means to us. We could think of no better way to start the Peace Run in Europe than to have his goodwill and support.

Mr. Van Rompuy also gave a glowing speech, in which he said, “Establishing, maintaining and developing peace is an ongoing run, an ongoing battle. (…) So thank you for everything you are doing to bring people closer together. You are proving to us that taking part in this Run is not just exercise or sport. It is, I insist on it, a way of life.”

President Van Rompuy also gave us a message of goodwill, which we will deliver to all the mayors and town councils we will visit in our long journey ahead. In his message he said, “May we all work together to build a European society based on the values of our common humanity, so we can have a world where peace and harmony are not mere dictionary words, but living realities.”

We also thanked him profusely for his support over the years.

We presented the President with the book "The Jewels of Happiness" written by Sri Chinmoy, founder of the Peace Run.

And we sang another song, called "Thank You" to express our gratitude.

Mr. Van Rompuy then took the very first steps of the Peace Run, proudly holding the Torch.

At the end he shook hands with all of us and wished us a wonderful journey.

The Peace Tree was hidden by renovation works, and will be visible again next year.

At 12:30 we were received at the European Parliament.

The Parliament was built in 1989 and completed in 1991.

The European Parliament represents the 28 countries of the European Union.

Artwork lined the halls of the Parliament.

Inside we had a ceremony to launch the European Peace Run with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).

Salil Wilson (seated right) is the global director of the Peace Run. He spoke about the common ground between the Peace Run and the European Parliament.
It was great to have Salil with us, who came all the way to Brussels from his New York home. And today happened to be his birthday! Salil quipped how nice it was of the MEPs to come to his birthday party.

Over twenty MEPs from nine different countries attended the meeting.

All of them held the Peace Torch and encouraged us with glowing words of praise that truly humbled us. MEP Tunne Kelam from Estonia (on this picture) quoted Peace Run Founder Sri Chinmoy in his speech, saying how we first have to “love the world as it is now” if we want to change the world for the better.

MEPs Vilja Savisaar-Toomast also represented Estonia and was visibly moved by the Peace Run.

The message of the Peace Run resonates very strongly with the ideas and ideals of the European Parliament, to which the MEPs unanimously referred to as “the European peace project”. And this peace project has proven very successful, a fact that was recognized globally when the European Union received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.

We showed the Peace Run video.

And listened to all the inspiring and uplifting speeches.

Our British runner Devashishu (seated, far right) told some of his personal experiences on the Peace Run.

Irish MEPs Jim Higgins (left) and Pat the Cope Gallagher (right) spoke about the progress Europe has made in achieving peace from a very personal perspective. They all lived through the dark times when Ireland was a divided country, suffering in the throes of religious tensions. And they all expressed their relief and gratitude that those days are now replaced by peace and reconciliation.

MEP Thomas Mann from Germany is one of our oldest friends at the European Parliament. He has been at almost all of our ceremonies there.

From left to right: Thomas Mann (Germany), Antigoni Papadopoulou (Cyprus), Sari Essayah (Finland), Jim Higgins (Ireland), Pat the Cope Gallagher (Ireland), Vilja Savisaar-Toomast (Estonia) and Inese Vaidere (Latvia).

We’d like to express our profound and sincere gratitude to Mrs. Angelika Werthmann, MEP from Austria, who has hosted us for the second time at the European Parliament. She has been the most kind and generous host one could ever imagine.

We are also most grateful to Ioana, who has worked very hard to make this meeting possible. Her organization of the event was immaculate.

After the meeting we all enjoyed the delicious vegetarian sandwich lunch provided by Mrs. Werthmann, who hosted our event.

Dig in guys!

A last group photo eith our host Mrs. Werthmann.

Mrs. Werthmann together with Ioana, her assistant.

We left the meeting elated and enriched.

Then we did our first real running of the Peace Run.

we did our first real running by covering We ran to circus school ESAC in the south of Brussels. This circus school is one of the best known and most prestigious circus schools in the world.

The school director, Mrs. Virginie Jortay, generously showed us around the school and explained all the goings on.

In three years time the student are being trained to become professional circus artists.

But not only do they have to learn their act, they also have to keep their body in top shape, learn to build their own stage, design their own costume and write their own shows.

Abhisar makes a new friend.

Salil talked about the Run to the students and they passed around the Torch.

It was a thrill to have experienced circus from the inside!

Altough the weather forecast had been gloomy, we experienced only sun and blue skies! Such is the magic of the Peace Run.

In the evening the Peace Run Team was very kindly invited by Irish Mep Jim Higgins to attend a gathering with a group youths also from Ireland.

These bright teenagers had won a competition for a trip to the European Parliament in Brussels.

We were invited to speak about the Peace Run and pass around the Peace Run touch for those present to make their own wish for a world of harmony.

We had a most wonderful and satisfying day in Brussels, and we feel greatly enriched by all the beautiful meetings and ceremonies we experienced. And this is just the first day of the Run! Who knows how many great adventures are ahead of us in the coming eight months, as we travel through 47 countries, running over 24,000 kilometres.