A 56-year-old Canadian man who left home after his business went bankrupt completed an 11-year walk around the world on Sunday and told a crowd of well-wishers his new goal was to promote peace.
Jean Beliveau — who arrived to a hero’s welcome in Montreal from loved ones, lawmakers and supporters — said his “real mission” was to lobby Canada and other governments to create “ministries of peace.”
“We are all different and that is what is beautiful about life on Earth — our different colors, different beliefs, different political systems,” he said.
“Those are all musical notes … we must create harmony from them, create a common tune,” an emotional Beliveau told the crowd assembled at city hall in the old part of the city.
Beliveau left Montreal on the day of his 45th birthday — Aug. 18, 2000 — after his small sign business went bankrupt. He decided to run around the world to try to escape the pain.
The Canadian ran all the way to Atlanta, Georgia, before slowing his stride for what would become the longest uninterrupted walk around the world: 75,000km across 64 countries.
Over 11 years, he traveled across deserts and mountains. He fell in love for nine days in Mexico, wore a turban and a long beard in Sudan, ate snake in China and was escorted by armed soldiers in the Philippines.
Upon his return on Sunday, Beliveau reunited with his mother, whom she had not seen throughout his 11 years on the road. She welcomed him in a tight embrace.
Longtime girlfriend Luce Archambault, who offered Beliveau emotional and financial support throughout his journey, and his two children from a previous marriage were also on hand for the celebration.
More than 100 supporters walked the final kilometers with Beliveau through the streets of Montreal.
Beliveau said a so-called “ministry of peace” could lead to the creation of a team that would lecture students on peace issues, as well as a Canadian peace corps.
The idea is backed by the Society to Promote Departments of Peace.
“We may never have peace, but if we take one step forward, and then another, I think we can create a better world together,” Beliveau said.
Archambault, who flew to join Beliveau wherever he was once a year so they could spend Christmas together, said last month: “I’m his Penelope and he is my Ulysses.”
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