“Everyone is jumping on the peace train.” Lyrics penned by Cat Stevens came true today in Christchurch after the famous musician, now known as Yusuf Islam, donated a physical peace train to the city following the attacks on mosques in 2019.
Cheers were heard aboard the miniature electric train named ‘Chuggers’ as it made dozens of loops in South Hagley Park, adjacent to the Al Noor Mosque.
“It made my heart sing,” Mayor Lianne Dalziel said as she watched the first trip depart.
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Dr Kate Dewes took her two grandsons on the first ride of the day and said it was a moving experience.
“To mark the 12th anniversary of the earthquake, to ride around our beautiful city on this train given to us because of the pain of our city, for the little ones to shout with excitement and wave to everyone, I was surprised how many tears came.
Her grandson said it was “exciting”.
Wattman’s battery-powered ACS express mini-train was donated to the city by Yusuf Islam, the musician formerly known as Cat Stevens.
He traveled to Christchurch two weeks after the attacks to perform his 1971 hit Peace Train at the memorial service.
It is the second in the world. There is another in Turkey.
Yusuf had two conditions for the train. He wanted it to be free to ride so people could access it, and he also wanted it to ride in the center of town.
A team of 40 volunteers will support the peace train, which will run every first and third Sunday of the month, except in winter.
One of these pilots will be Rashid Omar. He lost his 24-year-old son Tariq on March 15.
He took a ride today as a passenger and told 1News that the day before his son died, his son was talking to his mother when he listened and heard the song Peace Train by Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam .
“He was saying, it’s a beautiful song mom and she mentioned who the singer is. It’s so fitting to have this peace train donated by the Yusuf Islam Foundation. It’s just amazing”
“I’m sure he’s happy with what I’m doing now.”
There are also elements inside the train that promote peace, including conversation starters.
“We are trying to spread the message of peace, because I don’t want this (the terror attack) to happen again, ever again in my life,” Omar said.
“We want the train to inspire them to really think about the things they can do while homeschooling in their community to promote kindness,” said Kate Russell, Christchurch City Council’s Programs and Partnerships Manager. .
The first day of the peace train proved popular with all journeys booked at midday, with some waiting up to two hours for a seat.
“Crowd control was my biggest concern. I always knew we would have crowds here. It’s a happy problem to have,” Russell said.