Sri Chinmoy Peace Run
House of Representatives, 9 March 2023
Since 1987 more than seven million people worldwide have held the Sri Chinmoy peace torch, including Pope Francis, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Bob Hawke and John Howard. The 2023 Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run started in Brisbane and came to Canberra today. As ACT patron of the peace run, I was pleased to welcome the team to Parliament House, along with members and senators from across the parliament.
The team carrying the torch in relay has included Abhijatri Robinson (South Africa); Annabel Hepworth (Australia); Ashadeep Volkhardt (Australia); Bayarkhuu Batbayar (Mongolia); Fatima Caal Caal (Guatemala); Gabriel Quintana (Guatemala); Gesiane Nascimento (Brazil); Grahak Cunningham (Australia); Harashita Sunaoshi (Japan); Harita Davies (New Zealand), a three-time finisher of the world's longest race, the Sri Chinmoy 3,100-mile race; Joe Ward (Australia); Liana Tibaquira (Colombia); Mirabel Gonzalez Lopez (Guatemala); Narantuya Batsaikhan, Mongolia; Paramananda (Indonesia); Prachar Stegemann (Australia); Salil Wilson (Australia), global CEO of the peace run; Sarankhuu Jargal (Mongolia); Shasti Aston (Australia); Stacey Marsh (New Zealand), the national coordinator of the peace run for Australia; Susan Marshall (New Zealand), women's winner of this year's Sri Chinmoy 3,100-mile race. Plus thousands more Australian school students and members of community groups and clubs, along with citizens from all walks of life who have held, walked or run with the peace torch.
The organisers are inspired by Sri Chinmoy, founder of the peace run. As they put it, his 'vision of a dynamic global event in which each and every citizen can participate and offer their hearts' aspiration for peace continues to grow and offer ever-blossoming inspiration, hope and happiness.'
Peace has always been important to me. Among the earliest political activities that I joined were the annual Palm Sunday peace marches from Hyde Park in Sydney to the Domain. I enjoyed conversations with our family friend Kevin Clements, now Foundation Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies at the Toda Peace Institute and foundation director of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago. Kevin has devoted a lifetime to research on reducing conflict around the world, inspiring scholars and policymakers to devote more attention to peace building.
One aspect of peace building is crime prevention. On International Women's Day, yesterday, parliamentarians stood in silence to honour the women and children who are the victims of domestic and family violence. We also need to reform the criminal justice system to ensure prisons do a better job of rehabilitation and are not a revolving door to reoffending. Another aspect of peace building is averting wars. As wise generals know, one way of averting war can be through effective diplomacy and strong foreign aid programs. Australia also has a proud track record of working to reduce the scourge of nuclear weapons. In a 2021 book, What's the Worst that Could Happen? Existential Risk and Extreme Politics, I highlighted the danger that nuclear war could end humanity. The odds of this happening in the coming century are around one in a thousand. How many of us would get on a plane with a one in 1,000 risk of crashing? I commend the campaigners who are working towards a nuclear weapons ban, encouraging the world's nine nuclear states to relinquish their weapons.
We talk a lot in this place about the military, but avoiding conflict should be the ultimate goal. In Ukraine, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Congo and Nigeria, conflict claimed thousands of lives last year. Australia has a powerful role to play in supporting peace around the world.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the special work of Prachar Stegemann in supporting not only Sri Chinmoy but also Canberra's endurance sport community. The first event I did, which was organised by Prachar, was the 1989 Canberra long-distance triathlon. Since then I have done dozens more, including a 12-hour track run last year at the Australian Institute of Sport, a 100-kilometre ultramarathon around Canberra and a 10-kilometre Lake Burley Griffin swim. Prachar's ever-smiling generosity and organisational nous are a gift to those of us who enjoy pushing our bodies to the limits. Finally, on Canberra Day, Monday 13 March, I hope that all Canberrans will join the Sri Chinmoy Fun-Runs at Acton Park, coinciding with the official closing ceremony for the Australian leg of the peace run for 2023.