WELLINGTON — More than 400 people turned out here Friday for the start of a world march for peace that will criss-cross the globe over the next three months, passing through 90 countries, organisers said.
The 160,000-kilometre (99,419 mile) march, organised by the World Without Wars organisation, part of the Humanist Movement, has been endorsed by several prominent figures in politics, sport and entertainment.
It was designed to start on the UN International Day of Non-Violence on October 2 which is also the anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, who led the non-violent resistance against British colonial rule in India.
The opening march followed a symbolic route from the Gandhi statue in downtown Wellington, passed the New Zealand parliament buildings to a camphor tree grown from a plant that survived the 1945 atomic bombing of Nagasaki in Japan.
“There were about 400 on the march,” New Zealand organiser Alan Ware told AFP.
The group included 21 members from a core group of 25 who will be with the march through to its end in Argentina on January 2 with the remainder joining in Sydney on the weekend.
Rafael de la Rubia, the international spokesman for the march, said New Zealand was chosen as the starting point because of its links to nuclear disarmament and human rights.
“It is the first country to grant women the right to vote, to legally ban nuclear weapons, and the first and only country to establish a minister for disarmament,” he said.
Chilean Micky Hirsch, one of the core group, said the march would be an unprecedented social mobilisation pushing for an end to war, the dismantling of nuclear weapons and an end to all forms of violence.
The hundreds of prominent figures to endorse the march include the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta, Hollywood stars Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen and Penelope Cruz, tennis player David Nalbandian, pop star Bryan Adams and Yoko Ono, the widow of slain former Beatle John Lennon.