Murray McCheyne Thomson
Quintessential Man of Peace
“Great idea, both of you!” That’s how Murray responds when invited to submit peace stories for this book. “But you make it a challenge: which story for me to choose from the hundreds in which I have had some input or direction.” If you don’t know Murray, you likely envisage an éminence grise - somewhat puffed up and basking in the adulation of his admirers as he flaunts his Pearson Medal of Peace and Order of Canada, among countless other awards. Far from it. He is very present, certainly. And committed. And concerned. But his passion bubbles with irrepressible humour. He loves to play the violin. And, yes, flirt. Above all, he models for us a life lived fully and well in service of peace, embodying the best of what it is to be Canadian: professional, modest, results-oriented, caring and very, very human.
Here’s a formidable list from which Murray could choose a story: four years in India, seven in Thailand, seven with Project Ploughshares, two with Days of Peace; 15 with Peacefund Canada (and its 300 projects in at least 35 countries). The Canadian Friends of Burma went on for many years seeking peace and justice in that country.
Then, at Grindstone Island peace was part of seven conferences for diplomats, seven UNESCO International Seminars, and seven InterFaith Seminars. Not to forget Peace Brigades International. Impossible that one man should have participated in all this? There’s more: Murray didn’t just participate, he’s credited with founding the NGOs bolded above.
Into his nineties now, has he slowed down? Not if you count the past eight years of seeking to bring disarmament and peace via Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention. Or his latest book, Minutes to Midnight: Why More Than 800 Order of Canada Recipients Call for Nuclear Disarmament, with 54 mini-bios of eminent Canadians, many of whom sought peace.
“Yet, dammit, despite all that, and everything you and our many friends are doing,” Murray e-mails us, “the world is preparing to blow itself into little pieces, maybe very soon, because as Daniel Berrigan said, there is no peace for it is harder to produce and hang on to than war! Sorry; I got carried away. With love from another failure on the rock-strewn road to peace.... mt
Ps: just kidding – peace by Christmas – pass it on!”
And later, in response to my draft story about him: “You are too much and I too little. However, I’ll try to live up to the exaggerated picture you paint of little me! Well, it is true that I have had extraordinary opportunities, now that I think of it. And I am certainly thankful for them, though acutely aware of the gap between my “witness” and those who have really suffered (which I have not): Not only the well-known names of Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, etc. but the many with names unknown and unrecorded, caught up in civil conflicts the world over.
Though a second or third-class peace worker by comparison, I’m grateful that I have had a good family and friends (like you), good health, and unlimited opportunities. But I’ve never been confronted with one wanting to harm or kill me; never faced the pain and humiliation suffered by countless women from violent men; never had to worry about having an income; and, never been in a wartime situation in which I had no control or could not see any way out. (My time in the Air Force was safe, honourable and protected; a bit of a lark, really!)
I seem to have gone on, haven’t I? All your fault!”
Evelyn Voigt (volunteer, www.civilianpeaceservice.ca)