Sunday, August 15, 1999
Cyclists on 'peace ride' to greet millennium in
country where the new sun rises
By Dana Charkasi
AMMAN — A group of 10 cyclists representing
seven different nationalities is cycling 44 different countries around the world to spread
the message of a peaceful and safe life in the new millennium.
“The aim of our trip is to encourage people
to think what the next millennium will be like... most conflicts worldwide are between
neighbouring countries. If you can shake hands with your neighbour, it is already an
achievement,” said Lithuanian Goda Ciplyte, assistant to the international
coordinator of the Great Millenium Peace Ride.
“In Lithuania, people have a negative
stereotype of Polish people. But I am cycling together with two Polish, and we are good
friends. It is important to get to know the attitude of the others,” she said.
“We noticed that people all over the world
are good. We had few bad experiences so far. Of course you have bad people in every
country, but in general, the people we meet are very kind and helpful,” she said.
Three Lithuanians, two Italians, two Poles, a
Croatian, a Mexican, and a Peruvian are participating in the tour.
The peace tour, which is supported by the United
Nations Educationanl Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), started on August 6,
1998, in the U.S. city of Seattle, and led the group along the West coast of the U.S. to
Central and South America, then to Western Africa and Europe. The ten riders are currently
touring the Middle East, where they have so far visited Israel, the Palestinian self-rule
territories and currently are in Jordan.
“We pay [all expenses] from our own pocket,
we sleep in tents which we transport with us on our bicycles,” Ciplyte told the
“Sometimes I don't know myself, why I am
doing this. I always thought of travelling around the world. Everybody has a different
reason why he or she is on the trip.”
From Turkey, the group planned to cross Iran,
Pakistan, India and China from where they plan to cross over to Japan where they will
finish their tour in Hiroshima — one of the first two cities against which the atomic
bomb was used during the World War II — on January 1, 2000.
They also chose Japan because it is “the
country where the sun rises first, to welcome the new Millennium,” after one and a
half years of time and 26,000 cycled kilometres. The team carries with them a
40-metre-long peace banner, symbolising the 40,000 kilometres of the equatorial
circumference of the globe, in which they invite the people of goodwill and those who
support peace ideas to write wishes or greetings for the next Millennium.
“Muslim people are very hospitable. We are
always overwhelmed by their hospitality,” Ciplyte said.
Representing different cultures, traditions,
beliefs and nations, the Peace Ride is an example of peaceful cross-cultural coexistence.
“In the beginning, we all were more
individual, less tolerant, not patient enough with each other. One has to accept people
how they are. Everybody has different ideas. But during the past year cycling together, we
feel we are like one body,” Ciplyte said.