Celebrating the Message of Peace and Goodwill
from the Youth of Wales to the Youth of the World
Choice and Conscience are this year’s themes in the Message of Peace and Goodwill from the youth of Wales to the World. The message starts with “We have no instructions as to how to build peace but this is what we believe are the foundations…”. This year’s message was written by the pupils of Ysgol Maes Garmon, Mold. Yet over nearly a century, thousands of young people have been part of forming, sharing and responding to the message of peace. In truth we do not know the whole story, so the Urdd, supported by Wales for Peace, is putting out a call nationwide to uncover the history of the dedication of young people in Wales to peace and international understanding.
From little acorns mighty oaks grow, which was certainly the case with the Message of Peace and Goodwill from the Youth of Wales. The inspiration and the enabler, in terms of the international reach for the message, was Gwilym Davies. Initially, he experienced disappointment, since there was no response to the first ever message in 1922. These were the days of wireless telegraphy and the message was addressed in general to the children of the world. His consolation was that at least the Director of the Eiffel Tower Station received the message and forwarded it, in French. Yet again, Gwilym Davies was a man of vision and determination, and in 1924, after the BBC broadcast the message for the first time, two responses were received, one from Sweden and the other from Poland. The response rate increased and by 1927, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr Nansen, noted: “I feel convinced that it is the spirit in this message of the children of Wales which humanity needs.” Thus, despite the slow start, within a decade, 68 countries had responded. Then came the shadow of the Second World War, yet the annual message was still broadcast without fail, although responses were few and far between. Old contacts were revived after the war and new contacts flourished. To complement the message, peace camps were also held in Wales and overseas trips were arranged to enhance cultural exchange and international understanding.
To coincide with the date of the first peace conference at the Hague in 1899, the message is always sent out on the 18th of May. It is a message on behalf of all the young people of Wales, but the two organisations principally responsible for the arrangements and the committment to sustain the message, on behalf of the nation, are the League of Nations (until 1946) and the Urdd. From the outset, the message’s success has been due to the enthusiasm of outward-looking teachers and organisations across Wales that work with young people. Volunteers translate the message into multiple languages, and offers to translate the messages to even more world languages are welcomed.
Despite an evolution in content and form, the aim of the message has remained constant. Repeat wording is seen in the early messages, such as from 1922 to 1928, with the main effort going into collecting responses. More recently much originality and thought has gone into the presentation of the message by the Urdd such as in song, verse or performance. Nowadays, the wording and theme also changes annually, usually in response to current events or to campaigns by charities. Wales for Peace has been working in partnership with the Urdd, the National Library of Wales and the People’s Collection Wales, in order to share the wealth of this peace message heritage on the People’s Collection Wales website. Furthermore, a Wales for Peace exhibition, on the background to the peace message, can be seen at the National Library of Wales exhibition area at this year’s National Urdd Eisteddfod. At the same venue, on the 1st of June, the Urdd will be launching its appeal to complete the Library’s collection of printed messages, as well as to collect the hidden histories of the peace heritage.
Youth collaboration in forming the message
Picture credit ©Urdd Picture credit ©Urdd
A flavour of the message from the youth of Wales
- 1922: A wish, following drastic losses in WW1, that “there will be no need for any of us, as we grow older, to show our pride for the country in which we were born by going out to hate and to kill one another.”
- 1938: “More than ever the world needs what we alone can give – the confidence and the comradeship of youth.”
- 1947: “We know that we live in a wold full of fear and of danger. We have heard of the terrible atom bombs that can blot out our civilisation. But we believe that there are mightier things in the world than any weapons of mass destruction, the things of the mind and of the spirit, faith and hope and love.”
- 1951: “Over the continents and across the seas youth calls to youth that it wants to live for peace. We would dedicate ourselves with you all to the service of mankind. So shall we, millions of us, grow up to be the friends of all and the enemies of none.”
- 1985: "If young people like us can talk to each other we shall be contributing to a better understanding between nations large and small and whittling away the ignorance, prejudice and suspicions of the world.”
- 2002: “By sharing experiences and a new culture we can develop respect and love towards each other. By learning about each other, our friendship will build bridges and hopefully close the door on ignorance and open the door to justice and peace.” (Part of the ‘Welcome Calcutta’ campaign.)
A flavour of the responses from overseas
- 1938 France: “Aux enfants du pays de Galles. Nous avons écouté votre émission avec joie, car nous avons trouvé en vous des partisans de la paix.”
- 1939 Algeria: “Nous sommes de tout Coeur avec vous, dans votre désir d’union entre les jeunesses du monde.”
- 1946 Germany: “It is years since we have heard from the Welsh Children. How it grew dark! We should like to hear from you again.”
- 1948 Japan: “We are really happy to know, after so many years of isolation, that you have sent so hearty words of friendship and love.”
- 1952: Canada: ”If I were Minister of Education I would make trips to other lands a compulsory part of every child’s education.”
- 1958 Argentina: “Mae’r gobeithion ar ieuenctid y byd, ac rydym ninnau ar y cyd gyda chi, am wireddu’r gobeithion hyn.”
- 1958 India: “At this time, when nature is adorned with new loveliness, let us greet one another in the bond of friendship.”
- 1965 Bulgaria: “Let our hands be clasped, and let us not permit any power to sow hatred between us.”
- 1969 Zambia: “The boys and girls of Zambia wish to congratulate the youth of Wales for the initiative ….The youth of Zambia call upon all boys and girls in the world to fight against war, apartheid and all forms of racial discrimination.”
As the message approches its centenary year, it will continue it’s extensive reach, with new opprotunities to exchange messages digitally and through social media. Become part of this story of the search for peace, by sharing this year’s message with your contacts worldwide and forwarding the responses to email@example.com.
The full story
Join us in the big search for the Urdd’s peace heritage by volunteering. Wales for Peace is a four-year project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and managed by the Welsh Centre for International Affairs. The project’s core question is: in the hundred years since the First World War, how has Wales contributed to the search for peace? The Message of Peace and Goodwill is an important part of that story, so we’re supporting the Urdd and volunteers to research the interesting history of the message, responses, peace camps and international trips. We hope that a wide and diverse range of contributors will join us in the big search, and we offer free heritage training to volunteers who seek support in collecting or sharing these hidden histories. Without volunteers, the information about this heritage will be forgotten, so please contact Wales for Peace firstname.lastname@example.org or the Urdd email@example.com to share your story or to hear more about volunteering opportunities.