Activists' Sacred Run For A More Peaceful World
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release April 18, 2006
Sacred Run Participants Hope Their Action Will Lead to a More Peaceful World
Interview with Marcus Atkinson, Australian peace activist, conducted by Melinda Tuhus
Listen in RealAudio:
Every year for the past 28 years, an international Sacred Run for Peace and Mother Earth has been organized by Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement. This year, in addition to crossing the U.S. from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., participants took a detour of almost a thousand miles to visit the Houma tribal nation in the bayous of southern Louisiana. They added "hurricane recovery" to the causes they are running and walking for.
Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus walked with the group along the bayou through Golden Meadow on March 27, home to many of the 15,000 Houma people scattered through this fragile land that was battered by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Marcus Atkinson is a peace activist from a small town near Melbourne, Australia, who has participated in Sacred Runs since 1993 and is co-founder of another group of peace walkers and runners called Footprints for Peace. With the sounds of Buddhist prayer drums and passing trucks heard in the background, Melinda Tuhus spoke with Atkinson about his group's peace walks and why he believes grassroots movements such as these will lead to a more peaceful world.
MARCUS ATKINSON: In 2003, I organized a walk with my partner, and we organized a walk from Roxby Downs in Australia, which is very close to where the English tested nuclear weapons in the 1950s. It had a devastating effect on the aboriginal communities out there, and a lot of servicemen and the surrounding farming areas and stuff. So, 2003 was the 50th anniversary of those tests, so we decided to walk from there to Hiroshima, because of the connection to nuclear weapons. But also, Roxby Downs is one of the largest uranium mines in the world, and a lot of that uranium goes to fuel the over 50 nuclear reactors in Japan.
BETWEEN THE LINES: So where did you come from to join this run? Were you coming from Australia?
MARCUS ATKINSON: I came from India, actually, to join this particular walk and run. I was in Australia before that, around October-November, and I left for India in early December, because we did a walk through India to retrace Gandhi’s Salt March, because last year was the 75th anniversary of Gandhi’s Salt March. So, a group of Japanese Buddhist monks together with some Gandhian ashram people decided to retrace the Salt March from Ahmenabad to Dandi. So we did that and finished around the middle of January, and came to San Francisco in early February to join this one.
BETWEEN THE LINES:What can you say about this one so far, and especially about being down in the Houma Tribal Nation area?
MARCUS ATKINSON: I think, like all the walks and all the runs, they’re always different, but the one thing that’s really similar, no matter what country it is, is that the people who are being persecuted the most and have had the most taken from them, and live in poor conditions, are the people who show the most love, and share the most with us. It seems to be everywhere, like just a few months ago when we were walking in India as well, it was always the poorest communities that welcomed us with open arms. And it’s been the same here, with the Houma Nation, and everything they’ve faced through Katrina and Rita last year, and having no support from the government and FEMA and the Red Cross and everyone -- they’ve kind of been left to themselves to do what they can. But, it’s made them stronger and they’ve opened their arms to us incredibly, and it’s been an amazing three or four days that we’ve had down here.
BETWEEN THE LINES: It makes a difference to you, I’m sure, but do you think it makes a difference for peace in the world?
MARCUS ATKINSON: I think it does. I mean, just this isn’t going to change the world. But I think we’re doing our thing, and it does have an effect on people, like so many times like here at the Houma Nation and so many other places I’ve walked and run through, people are always talking about how much strength it gives them to continue, and like us meeting with them gives us strength to continue. And not like peace is something we can create tomorrow -- it’s a long-term commitment we have to make, and the only way for us to have the strength for that commitment is to keep being with each other, and meeting with each other. And to be honest, I have no faith at all in the political system and the big organizations, and stuff. I think like, a lot of the big organizations that were really good in the 1970s like Greenpeace and all these other big organizations are kind of lost in the political process at the moment, and I think the change that really gets made is from the grassroots level, and I think we need to keep this spark of grassroots alive and eventually, like something will spark and a whole grassroots movement will happen again like it did in the ’70s.
For more information, visit www.footprintsforpeace.net. To contact the Sacred Run, which is scheduled to arrive in Washington, D.C., on Earth Day, April 22, call (415) 595-1238 or visit their website at www.sacredrun.org
Melinda Tuhus is a producer of Between The
Lines, which can be heard on more than 40 radio stations and
in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at
http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was
featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio
newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending April
14, 2006. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Melinda
Tuhus and Anna Manzo.