“A Moment’s Peace”: A Celebration of Joy.
“Everyone can stand up and make a difference”, said Sudahota Carl Lewis, “Everyone can be a part of that chain”
He had just been invited – to rapturous applause and a standing ovation – by Devashishu Torpy, the Master of Ceremonies at the “A Moments Peace” event, to unveil the World Peace Dreamer Statue of Sri Chinmoy. Sudahota Carl Lewis gave a short speech, in which he made a light joke of a particular experience with Sri Chinmoy relating to Carl’s athletic career. He then said that we can all do something to bring the world together for peace. “Let’s s start today”, he continued.
Following this, Baroness Shreela Flather was invited by Devashishu to unveil the Statue with Sudahota Carl Lewis, at which point Bob Beamon, (Olympic record-holder and long-jump champion), Tegla La Roupe, (Olympian and Marathon Champion) Councillors, Mayors and Deputy Mayors were also invited to come on stage and witness the proceedings.
The Sri Chinmnoy Peace Dreamer Statue was unveiled about 1858 hours, to loud applause from the audience. Baroness Flather said a little about herself and growing up in India, and then talked about how Sri Chinmoy ‘oozed goodness’, and encouraged the audience to do something which helps humanity. She felt that if people do this, then it is bound to spread. She received a loud applause.
I suppose it all started when Sahadeva Torpy – Devashishu's brother – and a few good friends, had this idea of placing one of Sri Chinmoy's magnificent sculptures in an area of London. There were some initial setbacks with this approach, but events took a turn when Cathy Oerter - wife of Al Oerter - and a friend of theirs, came on board, and their small vision became a rather large living reality. Thus an event was born and developed to include art, musical performances from children and international artists, and special peace dreamers and dignitaries, both internationally and from London. The unveiling of the Sri Chinmoy Peace Dreamer Statue, was to be the highlight of this programme.
The London Olympic Committee, had given Cathy Oerter, co-founder of “Art of The Olympians,” together with her late husband and great Olympic discuss champion – Al Oerter – the prestigious University College, London (UCL), to host a display of Art of The Olympians. The Sri Chinmoy Peace Dreamer Statue organisers – of which Sahadeva was the Director – was invited to participate in their series of inspiring events during the London Olympic Games.
It was a cool Saturday evening on July 28th, in the courtyard of the Chadwick Building, UCL, just one day post the Olympic ceremony, when this wonderful event commenced. Just after 1800 hrs, the crowds were heralded to an impressive blowing of trumpets by four ceremonial guardsmen. This lasted for about a minute, followed by loud applause from the 800 or so people assembled there.
Looking around, one could see large banners displaying the words London 2012 and Inspire A Generation. There were also blown-up printouts of Mohammed Ali, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Jesse Owens and Sri Chinmoy. These great Peace Dreamer’s pictures, were displayed around the courtyard for the event. There was also a small selected display of art, leading to the main exhibition inside the building, and which was to be visited by many guests and members of the audience later on.
Devashishu Torpy welcomed everyone; all those who wanted to share their dreams of peace and to work for the cause of peace. He gave due recognition to Cathy Oerter, who was applauded by the audience. He spoke briefly, invoking her husband’s presence with some touching words, and then invited the Vice Provost of UCL, Professor Michael Worton to speak.
Professor Worton talked about being at the impressive Olympic ceremony, and made light of it by saying that he was ‘still de-coding it’. He spoke about peace as ‘being the greatest good for the greatest number’, and touched a little, on UCL’s history. He was proud of the fact that they had been the first to open their doors to women, and made a small tribute to Cathy Oerter. He reminded us that “You can all do more.” Quoting the Friar Timothy Ratcliffe, he said that “Universities should be places where we can learn to speak to strangers.” He finished by saying that while moving towards harmony, he welcomed us as strangers but we should depart as friends.
Cather Oerter gave a tribute to her husband in which she stated that he was kind, humble and all about being your best. He felt that we are all God’s children, and that he would be pleased to know what was happening here at UCL. She introduced Bob Beamon as a man of integrity, as ‘the man who could fly’, in reference, I believe, to his Olympic long-jump achievement.
Bob Beamon spoke at this point, saying how wonderful it was to be here. He reached out to Sudahota Carl Lewis – sitting in the audience – saying: “You’re the man” The audience was then invited to see the paintings and artwork at some point.
Now with a bit of a difference, a small group of World Harmony Runners, all carrying lighted torches, and dressed in blue uniformed tracksuits, came jogging into the courtyard at about 1828 hrs. Once again, they were heralded by trumpets from the guardsmen high up in the building at the back of the stage. They had ten beacons just in front of them, which the World Harmony Runners lit with their torches, before proceeding to their respective places. The trumpeters played the music of the World Harmony Run song.
Once the applause had died down, the crowd was invited to a five minute treat of a video on a large screen. This featured highlights of Olympians Sudahota Carl Lewis, Bob Beamon, as well as Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and finished with a live message from Archbishop Desmond Tutu who addressed the audience as Peace-Lovers and conveyed greetings from himself and his sisters and brothers of South Africa. He said that they were honouring the true spirit of the Olympics, something for which Sri Chinmoy had devoted his life. He spoke of him as being a “Gold medalist of goodness.”
The Reverend then referred to the World Peace-Dreamer Statue as an inspiring and powerful legacy for all Londoners to treasure for generations to come. He wished God’s blessings at the end for all present at the event. I should point out here that this short video had pop-ups of very powerful aphorisms by Sri Chinmoy. I have included one here:
“Do not stop dreaming! One day your world-peace-dream
will inundate the entire world” – Sri Chinmoy. A celebration of the Life of Sri Chinmoy, 2007.
At this point the motivational speaker Nripal Petersen spoke and said that it was a joy to be part of A Moment’s Peace, which was honouring a distinguished group of international luminaries. He said that vision took time to manifest, and that men of peace display a trust in conscience and nobility, a capacity for love, vision and growth. Sri Chinmoy was one such person, and his vision of self- transcendence, of the inner journey, of diving deep within, sleeplessly and breathlessly, and his acceptance of life was unique. He continued to say that peace is not in the mind, but:
“In the sacred smile that adorns our hearts” The secret achievement of our faith in God. Nripal paid a fitting tribute to Sri Chinmoy and spoke of his books, songs …and added this sublime quote from Sri Chinmoy:
“All human beings will someday live side by side in a perfect oneness-world.”- Sri Chinmoy. Nripal said that the Statue inspired a timeless message of oneness, peace and world harmony.
Devashishu spoke of celebrating people who acted on their vision, and stated that peace was very dynamic and a living consciousness. He said that the Sculpture was interactive, and invited all the five special guests to hold the Statue and thereby start a Moment of Peace.
First was Dr Davidson Hepburn, President of Unesco until 2010, who introduced all the others. He said that Sri Chinmoy was always a humble man who had taught him patience, and that this gathering was a tribute to him. He spoke of Sri Chinmoy as leaving behind footprints on the sands of time. (Applause).
Dr Hepburn introduced The Reverend Mpho A Tutu, Founder and Executive Director of the Tutu Institute for Prayer and Pilgrimage. Also Desmond Tutu’s daughter. She spoke of our common humanity and each of us being a child of earth and an honoured child of heaven. She invited the crowd assembled to hold the torch. Next was Bernice A King, youngest daughter of Martin Luther King, Jnr, and Coretta Scott King. She is also the CEO of the King Centre. She spoke on crusading against injustice and Agape or unconditional love. She also hoped that the Statue would inspire others to be peace makers.
Marlene Owens Rankin, daughter of Jesse Owens and Managing Director of the Jesse Owens Foundation was next. She prayed for Sri Chinmoy's vision for world peace to be realised. Next was the CEO of Nelson Mandela’s Children’s Fund, Sibungile Mkhabela. She spoke of finding peace, as the challenge of facing the demons in us and finding the peace which we can share with the world. She touched on Mandela and others who went to jail because they refused to be de-humanised.
Finally it was Mohammed Ali’s daughter’s turn to speak. She expressed gratitude for being there and said that “Impossibility is just a word thrown around by small men”. I believe that she was quoting her father. She said that some of us were bound by birth to the legacy of great men, and that she had received Sri Chinmoy's blessings through her father. To her, “Love is the one word that helps us figure it out”. She also said that we should love ourselves, as it was hard to spread love when we are not happy … she spoke of beauty on the inside and finished by wishing everyone God’s blessings.
Devashishu gave due mention to his father, Kaivalya Torpy, the artist who had sculptured the magnificent statue, with which people were now invited to share A Moment’s Peace.
I would like to say that Dr Hepburn did a wonderful job reading from the inspiring quotations of these great women’s fathers. This was done just prior to each one speaking and with a selected group of children repeating in rap and clapping applause. The Sri Chinmoy musicians and children singers and choirs sang Sri Chinmoy's A Moment’s Peace songs, and there was a photo-shoot for all the distinguished guests at the end.
There was a beautiful rendering of Let There Be Peace on Earth as Devashishu invited the youth of the world to carry this message of peace through music for peace, to the four corners of the globe. It was a large blue-shirted group of children on stage displaying T-shirts with the design A Moment’s Peace 2012, emblazoned across their fronts.
Tegla La Roupe, Olympian and marathoner, gave a stirring speech in which she encouraged the audience to have harmony in this world, and spoke of children as angels of God, leaders and ambassadors of tomorrow. She wished that the world would embrace the ideals of what was happening at the Olympic Ceremony.
The final speaker was George Pina, accompanied by his interpreter Francesco Mendes. He is a remarkable runner who lost most of his sight, but according to him, “now sees with his heart”. He described the World Harmony Run in Portugal as a kind of enlightenment and an awakening to reality. He will be representing Portugal at the Paralympics.
All Olympians past and present were then invited for a photo-shoot, and the courtyard event concluded with Purushottama Boris Gribenshikov – the Russian Musician – Brian Finnegan, Sheema Mukherjee and other international guests and children, singing the stirring rendition of “The Boat of Time Sails on”; and “Let it be” by John Lennon.
All present were then treated to drinks, socials and the viewing of some amazing works of art by Olympians, children and Sri Chinmoy. This was done inside the Chadwick Building. Professor Naren Barfield, pro-rector academic and Fellow of The Royal College of Art, spoke about Sri Chinmoy’s Art. He was followed by Ranjana Ghose, President of the Sri Chinmoy Centre and Curator of the Jharna-Kala Foundation. She spoke eloquently about joy, love; the responsibility to serve humanity; of Sri Chinmoy’s contribution to recognising the Olympic Games and many other aspects of his service to humanity.
My encounter with the various groups both within the courtyard and the Art Gallery is that all were truly moved. It was a most inspiring event for all present, and the exchange of hearts went on way into the late hours of the evening. – Manatita 30th July, 2012.