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16 April, 2018

Six years ago Imad Karam, John Parker-Rees and Kelly Burks began filming the documentary footage that would go on to become The Man Who Built Peace – The Frank Buchman Story. They travelled across the United Kingdom, Europe, South America and the United States before heading to India, Japan and South Korea for further filming. The places may have been varied and geographically broad, but one thing that remained clear was the commitment and passion with which interviewees spoke of their experiences of Frank.

It was an inspiring experience for everyone, and Kelly Burks says that ’Having met these contemporaries of Frank Buchman and witnessing how full of life and alight with enthusiasm they were even now, in their 80’s and 90’s, informed us fully of the power and conviction of Frank Buchman’s life and work.’

One of the key objectives with the filming was to capture the testimonials of Buchman’s contemporaries and they were able to meet with many in the Tucson area in the US. One was Dave Allen, who knew Frank from the age of five, and started working full time MRA at just 11 years old. Dave went on to work under the tutelage of Alan Thornhill and Peter Howard. He stated that an encounter with Frank Buchman became, for almost everyone he met, the transformative encounter of their life: ‘Frank’s challenging conviction that…YOU, the ordinary man…could have a part in remaking the world.’

Jane Allen described how she was brought up with all the MRA teachings and went to Caux for the first time when she was 17. She toured with the shows and musicals, including the trip to India and Pakistan, playing piano and working hard for the cause. Jane said Frank showed a lot of understanding to others. When asked why she joined Buchman Jane said, ‘I think we all wanted to be part of building a better world than we had grown up in’, describing how Buchman ensured the Germans were invited to Caux and that MRA played a very real part in healing the bitterness between France and Germany and creating a new atmosphere in Europe after the war. There was a sense that the individual could play a part in bringing about a better society.

For many of those with personal experience of Frank, it is his gentleness and means of connection that was so powerful. In India the team met with RD Mathur, the first Director of Asia Plateau. Of his first meeting with Frank Buchman, he said: ‘I found him a great human. I found his heart overflowing with care for some stranger like me. He wanted to understand me and know me,and he couldn’t be bothered about anything else. He was preoccupied with me during that cup of tea, and those things left a very great impression on me of a man who looks so simple, so ordinary, and yet so deep.’

This feeling of the importance of being ordinary was echoed by Dara Ghandy, who met Buchman in 1952 in Caux, and later became a Founding Trustee of Friends of Moral Re-Armament in India. Dara gave a lively and candid interview and in referring to the four standards said ‘Many people, I thought mistakenly, put that we are supposed to be so good that we are saint like, that’s not the thing. We are ordinary people, what matters is your commitment, that even if you fail, learn from your mistakes but keep on the same path.’

Frank Buchman’s work and legacy was for everyone. Not confined to a particular place or time, his influence was widespread. These interviews with those who met him prove just how important a connection he made, and it’s a theme that is echoed throughout the film. An inspiring man, his message and methods continue to have relevance and resonance to us today. Frank Buchman worked for peace in the world, and by following his example, beginning with ourselves, we can continue to do so.

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