(Reprinted with permission from Faith At Work, November 1966.)

What could happen in a world at war if each day we gave A MINUTE FOR PEACE


I first saw faith at work twenty years ago as men and women met together each week at Calvary Episcopal Church, in New York City, to reinforce each other’s faith. Miraculous solutions came to human problems, and over the years I have nursed a growing conviction that the power of faith can be applied in practical ways to our global as well as our personal problems.

In 1963, as a newspaper publisher in the San Francisco area, I discussed with church and business leaders an idea that might halt mankind’s plunge into oblivion. I felt that if each person would take one minute a day to think about peace in the best way he knows, we might bring a global victory for peace.

On Veterans’ Day [Armistice Day] the eleventh day of the eleventh month – I found myself lunching with Jules Dundes, vice-president of CBS radio. He liked the idea. Then just eleven days later we were shocked by President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and yet as this tragedy created a kindred feeling around the world, I sensed that it would have been unthinkable for any major power to make war. Here was further confirmation of the fact that in the right spiritual climate men could live in peace.

I went back to Jules Dundes and suggested that we end the period of mourning for our president with a new dedication to peace through a "Minute for Peace." In short order we obtained a proclamation from Mayor George Christopher, a resolution from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and public endorsement from Archbishop McGucken, Bishop Pike, Rabbi Fine, and other religious leaders.

On December 22, just three days before Christmas, the first "Minute for Peace’ was broadcast on radio and TV stations. Wire services featured it in news stories that went around the world. The broadcast included the voice of President Kennedy addressing the United Nations with an urgent plea for peace, and asked each listener to dedicate his thoughts and action to peace.

Then in February, 1965 I was invited to attend the Pacem in Terris (Peace on earth) conference in New York City, where a distinguished group of world leaders considered ways to peace in the context of Pope John XXIII’s famous encyclical.

In the final session of the conference Dr. Jerome Frank spoke out spontaneously for the idea of "Minute for Peace" and urged implementation of the idea as one practical step toward the great goal the conference was discussing. As a result I was invited to the home of Paul V. Hoffman, Director of the U.N. Special Fund, along with Altheya Youngman, who had come from San Francisco to help advance "Minute for Peace." His help enabled us to gain support in the United Nations.

Again my faith was challenged. If the movement was to gain widest acceptance, no one less than Secretary General U Thant would suffice to produce the first of a series of broadcast messages. I was told that such a thing was impossible. A dozen reasons of policy and precedent were cited.

I called the Secretary General’s assistant, Mr. C.V. Narasimhan. He seemed anxious to help and suggested that since "Minute for Peace’ was an official project of San Francisco and since the Secretary General was shortly to go there for the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the charter, he would get the message from him if I could get Mr. Robert Gros, the chairman of the program in San Francisco, to request it.

My heart leaped with joy, for Robert Gros was a cherished friend of long standing and one of the staunch supporter of "Minute for Peace." A phone call got his cooperation and shortly after that the Secretary General gave us a message that captured effectively the whole meaning of "Minute for Peace."

"We live in a world of noise," he said, "yet our conscience is called the still, small voice. As Dag Hamarakjold once pointed out, ‘We all have within us a center of stillness surrounded by silence.’ Unless we heed our own conscience, we shall continue to be attracted by what is loud and garish, and lose our sense of values. If there is no peace in the world today, it is because there is no peace in the minds of men.

"It is important, therefore, that all of us should determine to set aside some time each day to commune with ourselves, to talk with our own still, small voice, to devote one minute for thoughts of peace and goodwill."

On June 26, the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the United Nations charter, this "minute for Peace" message was broadcast on all major U.S. radio networks, by United Nations radio, by networks in other countries, and by international short wave radio.

Other messages have been recorded from United Nations ambassadors such as Alex Quaison-Sackey of Ghana, Britain’s Lord Caradon, Chief Adebo of Nigeria, Dr. Cuevas Cancino of Mexico, Awad El Kony of the United Arab Republic, Michael Comay of Israel, the late Adlai Stevenson and other notables such as Paul V. Hoffman and anthropologist Margaret Mead. With special permission of the Holy See we broadcast a most compelling "Minute for Peace" containing part of Pope Paul VI’s message at his Peace Mass in Yankee Stadium.

When the crisis between India and Pakistan arose last fall over the Kashmir, Altheya Youngman, who had once lived in the Kashmir, felt we should relate our broadcast to the crisis. We obtained a record—a collectors item – which carried the voice of Gandhi with a searching challenge for peace.

War had broken out between India and Pakistan and Altheya and I knew members of both U.N. Missions and felt close to the situation. On the night that the security Council met to call for a cease-fire we entered the Council chamber and remained there until the cease-fire was secured after three in the morning.

The room was charged with tension as Indian and Pakistani delegates maneuvered for advantage. Angry words were hurled from one side of the table to the other. I looked around and realized that less than twenty observers were watching this most important meeting. I wondered how many of them were praying, as we were, for those who held the power of decision.

Now it was after midnight. The men below us faced a crisis that could easily escalate into wide-spread warfare and multiply by a thousand times the deadly carnage that had already taken place. I was deep in intercessory prayer, striving to bring into that room the consciousness of the presence of God. I prayed that wisdom would be given our Ambassador Goldber, who was Chairman, as well as Lord Caradon and Soviet Ambassador Federenko in their efforts toward reconciliation – that they would hear the still, small voice.

I do not know how much our prayers contributed to the success of the meeting that night. I do know that Ambassador Goldberg surpassed himself in handling it, that Ambassador Federenko spoke words of understanding and conciliation, that the violence of the disputants was gradually tempered, and that a reluctant but welcome cease-fire was finally obtained. I shall never forget the experience and the conviction it strengthened in me that great power is released whenever people agree in prayer.

God has given us a strategy to advance this cause around the world. He has led us to work beside the United Nations where representatives of the nations of the world meet to pursue peace. He has given us the wholehearted co-operation of influential public people. Every Day brings increasing evidence that we can get massive participation by the communications media on every continent.

Can a "Minute for Peace’ become a minute of goodwill observed in unison around the world? Will it irresistibly move the leaders of men into paths of peace? Will the hearts and minds of people in all countries be touched by the Holy Spirit with the peace and love that bring men into the Kingdom of God?

What has happened so far seemed utterly impossible at first. Who knows what may happen if we put our faith to work and use the power of the Spirit to solve the problem of the sword?

John McConnell

Earth Day & WOW


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