Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Dag Hammarskjold, Peacemaker

Today in the world of Lutheran Christendom, we remember and celebrate "one of ours," former Secretary General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold.
   Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjold was born July 29, 1905 at Jonkoping, Sweden, the son of the Prime Minister. He studied law and economics at the universities of Uppsala and Stockholm and taught political economics at Stockholm, 1933-1936. He joined the Swedish civil service in the Ministry of Finance and subsequently became president of the board of the Bank of Sweden. From 1947 he served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was responsible for dealing with problems of trade. In 1951 he was appointed Minister of State with the functions of deputy Foreign Minister. 
   In 1951 he was chosen vice-chair of the Swedish delegation to the United Nations and was made chair in the following year. On April 10, 1953, following the resignation of Trygve Lie of Norway as Secretary General, Hammarskjold was elected for a five-year term. In September 1957 he was unanimously elected to a second five-year term. During his first term he had to deal with the end of the Korean War, problems in the Middle East, and the crisis over the Suez Canal. 
   The Belgian Congo became independent June 30, 1960, and civil war followed. Hammarskjold sent a United Nations force to suppress the violence. On a mission to President Moise Tschombe of the province of Katanga to negotiate a cease-fire between the United Nations and Katanga forces, Hammarskjold was killed in a plane crash September 18, 1961, near Ndola, Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia. 
   Hammarskjold surprised and bewildered the world when a manuscript entitled Vägmärken (Markings) was found in Dag Hammarskjöld’s apartment in New York. The manuscript consisted of short diary-like notes, prose and haiku poems, which he himself described as “a sort of white book concerning my negotiations with myself — and with God.” (Hammarskjöld 1963, p. 5). Markings was published as a book in 1963. He effected in his life a remarkable combination of the contemplative life with a life of action in the world. Working out his faith in service of humankind, he strove to learn more about the nature and the work of God. As he wrote in Markings (p. 122), "In our era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action."
   In 1961, Dag Hammarskjöld was posthumously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts “to create peace and goodwill among nations and [sic] men.” (Jahn 1961). Ambassador Rolf Edberg received the prize as a representative of the Hammarskjöld family.
   Here are a couple of trademark quotes from Markings, which give us a sense of Dag's spiritual roots and resilience: Written in 1953: "-Night is drawing nigh-" For all that has been-Thanks! To all that shall be-Yes! Not I, but God in me." 
   And in 1954, this beautiful prayer: 
   "Thou who art over us,
    Thou who art one of us,
    Thou who art-
    Also within us,
    May all see Thee-in me also,
    May I prepare the way for Thee,
    May I thank Thee for all that shall fall to my lot,
    May I also not forget the needs of others,
    Keep me in Thy love
    As Thou wouldest that all should be kept in mine.
    May everything in this my being be directed to Thy glory
    And may I never despair,
    For I am under Thy hand, 
    And in Thee is all power and goodness.
    Give me a pure heart-that I may see Thee,
    A humble heart-that I may hear Thee,
    A heart of love-that I may serve Thee,
    A heart of faith-that I may abide in Thee."
   The following prayer is also appropriate on this day of remembering and celebrating Dag's life and legacy: Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image. Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression. Help us, like your servant Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjold, to use our freedom to bring justice among people and nations, to the glory of your name; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
   Sources for this post are: 
Philip H. Pfatteicher, Festivals and Commemorations: Handbook To The Calendar In Lutheran Book Of Worship.
Lutheran Book Of Worship
The Dag Hammarskjöld website, which consists of the following: Introductory page, Biography, Video and Audio, Photos, Quotes, Literature, and Links: 
Readers may also wish to check out this most interesting blog, where you can listen to three pieces of music composed by the Swedish pianist, jazz musician and composer, Anders Widmark, who has set some of the pages of Markings to music:


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