Belgium 1 June: Brussels
We spent an auspicious two days in Europe's capital of Brussels. We visited three European political institutions and met with members of the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of Europe. Above is a group photograph with Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the Council of Europe and chairman of the European Union.
The government of Europe works in this building.
Many countries, many languages...
On Wednesday morning June 1st we had planned a run with Jan Brezina, a Czech Member of the European Parliament (MEP). Unfortunately mr. Brezina had left his running gear in the Czech Republic, so we ran with his assistant instead. Here he is holding the Torch.
A group of children from elementary school Claire Joie joined us as we ran towards a meeting with President Van Rompuy in the Léopold Parc. The President agreed to meet with us and inaugurate a new plaque at the Sri Chinmoy Peace Tree, planted in the parc exactly 20 years ago in june 1991.
From right to left: President Herman Van Rompuy, Mr. Jan Brezina (MEP) and Mr. Libor Roucek (MEP), Balavan Thomas and Salil Wilson (global director of the World Harmony Run).
The 20-year-old Peace Tree with the new plaque.
This is how the old plaque looked. As you can see it was badly in need of replacement.
The President and the global director unveil the new plaque.
Mr. Van Rompuy officially receives the World Harmony Torch.
The President gave a glowing speech, voicing his appreciation for the World Harmony Run. About the Sri Chinmoy Peace Tree he said, "I believe you have chosen the most beautiful and the most powerful symbol to celebrate humanity's aspiration for world-peace." He also highlighted the concept of oneness, which was exemplified in the text of the plaque and embodied an important message according to the President. "Oneness is unity and 'unity in diversity' is the European motto," he said.
President Van Rompuy looks on attentively as a poem is read to him. The President happens to be a highly skilled haiku-poet himself.
We gave the President a framed photograph of our meeting of last year, which put a smile on his face.
A symbolic walk with the Torch ended our meeting. "Walking or running is a way of life, a way to testify one's solidarity with others, a way to establish a dialogue between people," mr. Van Rompuy said in his speech.
"See you next year!" were the President's parting words. We are so grateful for his support and hope to be back in Brussels in 2012 to strengthen our friendship.
The Torch changed hands to Mr. Libor Roucek, Czech MEP, and his team of three assistants. All clad in official World Harmony Run t-shirts they joined us running to the elementary school Claire Joie.
The children screamed with delight as we entered the school's premises.
Mr. Roucek spoke to the 500 school children about the importance of harmony and tolerance.
We may speak different languages and come from different cultures, but we should always respect each other, he said.
A young girl reads out a poem by Rudyard Kipling about what it takes to become a real "man" (or "woman" for that matter). On the left is Mrs. Josianne Pardonge, the head mistress of the school who organized and facilitated the meeting. We are very grateful to her.
Loving it too!
A brief moment of respite... Salil reflects on the inner aspects of harmony.
On Tuesday May 31st we had a meeting at the European Commission. The cross-shaped building is an architectural tour de force. Very impressive!
Running into the meeting...
...we were greeted by Commissioner John Dalli from Malta. Mr. Dalli is the European Commissioner for Health. How appropriate!
Commissioner Dalli received the Torch and gave a wonderful speech, highlighting the importance of peace in today's often unharmonious world. He was impressed with what he called the 'high-profile' of the World Harmony Run, naming individuals like Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa who have held the Torch and supported the Run in the past.
"It is important to first get something before you can give something," Mr. Dalli said.
Mr. Dalli joined us running and proved he is the right man in the right place as the European Commissioner for health.
Snapshots of our next destination: the European Parliament.
We could have picked a better day for the meeting: it was raining cats and dogs!
Despite the rain the Torch kept burning brightly.
At the European Parliament we spoke to Mrs. Gessine Meissner, MEP from Germany. She braved the foul weather and received our Torch plus our sincere gratitude.
Mrs. Meissner told us she was raised in the spirit of world-harmony. After the war her parents had welcomed people from all nationalities into their home. She got acquainted with different cultures right from the days of her childhood. Therefore she really understood the message of our Run and hadn't thought twice about coming out to greet us.
We closed with our traditional run with the Torch - through the rain this time!
An enthusiastic onlooker shares a happy moment with the Torch.
From left to right: Abhisar, Balavan and our intrepid video-man Sanjaya (the kindest and most 'old-school' gentleman you'll ever meet).
Impressions of Europe's capital...
Beautiful Brussels. See you again in april 2012!!!
See the recent Youtube video which illustrates IYY slogan "Our Year Our Voice" International Year of Youth - Zambia World Harmony
Distance: 5 km
Salil Wilson (Australia), Hidde Tangerman (Holland), Abhisar Laza (Czech Republic), Apaguha Vesely (Czech Republic), Balavan Thomas (Great Britain), Shobhavati Davies (New Zealand), Vasanti Niemz (Germany), Frédéric Gat (France), Ujjwala Mettrick (New Zealand), Viliam Segeda (Czech Republic), Vimalamati Van Der Vaart (Holland), Judit Elek (Hungary)
Gallery: See more images!
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