Ran from Ola to Fort Smith last Tuesday.
An international team of runners with the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run took advantage of having a gathering of more than 1,500 students for a STEM Olympiad being held in the Booneville High School parking lot and several campus buildings Tuesday to spread their message.
The founder of the run, described in a news release as an athlete, philosopher, artist, musician and poet, Sri Chinmoy dedicated his life to advancing the ideals of world harmony and said, “How can we have peace? Not by talking about peace, but by walking along the road of peace.”
Carrying a torch, which symbolizes humanity’s hope and dreams of peace, according to runner Harita Davies of New Zealand.
“We’re running sharing the message that peace starts in the heart of each one of us,” said Davies. “And that we all have an important role to play in making the world more peaceful. And really that the world is one big family.”
Along the way the group makes stops at schools, meets at events, with mayors, law enforcement and others.
“Really, (it’s) to encourage people to believe that they can make a difference, and that each one of us has things that we can do in our own lives that will directly bring peace to the world,” said Davies. “It’s a simple, but it’s a very powerful and very encouraging message.
Runners are often stopped with requests to hold the torch, a wish easily accommodated, which was the case along a makeshift track around the parking lot Tuesday.
Tuesday’s run for the 10-member team was a jaunt from Ola to Fort Smith, an 85-mile trek. The women’s team started about 7 a.m., Tuesday and the men’s contingent ran the afternoon hours. The team alternates carrying the torch for a couple miles apiece in a relay fashion, Davies said.
The biannual run, which began in 1987, has covered more than 150 different countries and will cover more than 100 this year, Davies said.
The North American loop started in New York City on April 15 and will also end in New York on Aug. 15, she said. It’s a trip that will cover 11,000 miles and take the runners into both Mexico and Canada.
The European relay started in Bulgaria in February and will end in Portugal in October after running some 16,000 miles, according to a news release.
The stop in Booneville was the first for the Peace Run.
“This is our first time through here,” said Davies. “We take a slightly different route each time.
Speaking to the kids at the STEM competition Alfonse Deangelo, a New York native, said, “There’s over 100 countries doing this so you’re part of an international, world wide peace run. When we run through the countries and states we stop at places that invite us to help pass the torch and think of peace in our communities.
“And what a better way than with the great inventions and work of the children for science and for creativity. The dancing and the music is all part of being peaceful and happy.”
In addition to New Zealand and the USA, the team in Booneville last week included runners from Austria, Russia, the Czech Republic and Latvia.
Since its beginning, more than 6-million people have participated in the run. Commendations have come from many world figures including Pope Francis, President Nelson Mandela, President Mikhail Gorbachev, Mother Teresa, state governors, city mayors and celebrities across the world.