Dag Hammarskjold was born in Sweden in 1908. A man of exceptional talents and intelligence, he became the youngest chairman in the history of the Bank of Sweden. He went on to become Sweden’s deputy foreign minister. Then, in 1953, he became Secretary-General of the United Nations. As Secretary-General, his first and abiding loyalty was to peace. He would have peace even if it means standing up to very powerful nations. This is exactly what he later had to do in the case of the Congo.
Congo is a central African country. Just days after its independence in 1960, different groupstried to take over the government. As the world watched, a civil war broke out.
Communist nations wanted it to end with a government friendly to communism. Western nations hoped for the victory of democratic forces. But Hammarskjold just wanted the fighting to end. So he sent a UN peace-keeping force to the Congo. The UN soldiers were successful in ending the war. The shooting stopped. But there was still trouble. The Soviet Union angrily accused Hammarskjold of having tried to put a democratic government in power in the Congo. The Secretary-General replied, “My record is on the table…..of the United Nations with such completeness that there is noneed to add anything or explain anything.” It was a record that would later bring him international honor.
Throughout his UN career, Hammarskjold made it a point to visit nations in crisis. His presence, he felt, might help bring peace. So in September of 1961, he went to Congo. While travelling in Africa, he was killed in an airplane crash. He died not knowing that he had been awarded the 1961 Nobel Prize for his efforts to bring peace to the Congo.
Over the years, Hammarskjold had also written Markings, a book of poems. The book was published after his death. But the one of his most beautiful poems was not in the book. It was, instead engraved upon a wall in a room of the UN that has since become a shrine:
THIS IS A ROOM DEVOTED TO PEACE AND THOSE WHO ARE GIVING THEIR LIVES FOR PEACE.
IT IS A ROOM OF QUIET WHERE ONLY THOUGHTS SHOULD SPEAK.
note: originally posted at Exposeknowledge.com under the same author.