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Peace in the New Millenium
An Interview with James Twyman, Peace Troubadour

by Randy Peyser

On April 23, 1998, a circle of people joined hands with James Twyman for a brief moment of prayer inside the United Nations building. James, a wandering techno-minstrel who had come to be known as the “Peace Troubadour,” had performed peace concerts in such war torn areas as Bosnia, Belfast and Iraq. Now on this momentous occasion, he was about to sing his songs—composed from the prayers of peace taken from the world’s twelve major religions—before an assembly of ambassadors to the United Nations.

When they had finished their brief joining in prayer, a woman stepped forward with the following pronouncement: “Four years, four months, four weeks and four days ago, a group of Native American Hopi Elders were invited to the United Nations to give their vision of a new world. One of the things they said was that, “Four years, four months, four weeks and four days from now—this very day—something would occur in this building that would forever shift the consciousness of humanity.

Although this prophecy was previously unbeknownst to him, via the internet, James, along with authors, Gregg Braden, Awakening to Zero Point, and Doreen Virtue, Divine Guidance, had already extended an invitation to the world’s population to focus on world peace at the exact moment he would be singing the peace prayers at the United Nations.

The result? Billed as “the Great Experiment,” millions of people around the globe simultaneously joined with James to send a message of peace throughout the world. Says James, “It was perhaps the most profound experience of my life. It was like it was raining prayer. It was a tangible feeling and the ambassadors even joined us in this. We feel that between five and ten million people in at least eighty countries participated.”

The previous year, the seed for “the Great Experiment” had been planted when James had been invited by Saddam Hussein to sing his prayers for peace in Iraq. Says James, “I had made a silly comment over a London radio station that I wanted to go to Iraq and sing the Muslim peace prayer to Saddam Hussein, not thinking that anyone would take me seriously. The next thing I knew, I was on a plane heading to Iraq. 

At the time, war with Iraq seemed imminent. An e-mail had been sent out inviting people to send the feeling of peace as he performed. “Millions of people around the world responded,” says James. “Three days later the peace accord was signed.”

Because of what had happened in Iraq, the following week James was asked to come to Northern Ireland where the peace talks in Belfast were stalled. “I was invited to sing and once again we put out that same e-mail and millions of people focused their prayers on Northern Ireland,” says James. “Three days later a breakthrough occurred in the talks which allowed the peace accord to be signed a month ahead of schedule.”

Then on November 13, 1998, newspaper headlines declared that negotiations with Saddam Hussein had been broken off. The United States was about to attack at any moment. James, Gregg, and Doreen just happened to be together at a conference in Florida where they had already scheduled a worldwide peace vigil for later that day. Called, “There’s Nothing to Fear,” again millions of people joined to simultaneously pray for world peace.

“Little did we know,” says James, “that on the same day we were holding the worldwide prayer vigil, President Clinton had given the order to attack. Planes were in the air waiting for the order to go ahead and begin the bombing. Within hours of the vigil, Bill Clinton gave an unprecedented stand down order, calling the planes back, not once, but twice. As far as I know, this has never occurred with an executive order.”

Although there is no way to scientifically measure the connection between millions of people engaged in prayers for world peace and the signing of peace treaties, there certainly appears to be a strong correlation. “Many people believe that prayer is a passive thing,” says James. “These examples show that true prayer—not perhaps the prayer that we’ve been raised to believe in, but real prayer—is probably the most powerful force in the whole universe.”

So what is true prayer? According to Gregg Braden who James quotes, a mode of prayer existed which was lost to our Western culture about 1700 years ago. “This form of prayer requires a feeling element—you feel that what you want has already occurred.” 

“When we ask for something to happen,” says James, “the attention is on the fact that we don’t have it now. But when we feel that it has already occurred, then we put out an energy that actually draws that reality to us. Gratitude is a key element. It is very important to be grateful.”

So, how does one grow up to be a “Peace Troubadour?” As a teenager, James wanted to be a priest, and even went so far as to enter a Franciscan monastery. But like many young men, he also had a secret desire to be a rock star. Since age twelve, he’d been writing music and performing guitar and vocals. Although his love for his spiritual roots ran deep—and still does—his career as a Franciscan was short-lived. His music, however, remained.

In his early twenties, he graduated from college, married, and had a daughter. Soon thereafter, he felt a deep churning to be fulfilling some sort of longing that he couldn’t quite yet identify. After less than two years of marriage, he and his wife divorced. The next five years were tough. “I was working different jobs, just surviving and not doing very well spiritually,” says James.

Then at age 28, a flicker of light began to glimmer at the end of the proverbial tunnel. James had moved into a home in Chicago called, St. Catherine’s Catholic Worker, a residence for people who were both homeless and living with AIDS. Finding himself immersed in service, he found new meaning for his life. Says James, “It was when I stopped focusing on myself and began to reach out that I rediscovered that spiritual part of me.”

James devoted himself to being of service. Shortly thereafter, an event happened that would influence the direction of his life’s journey. For the first time in history, the leaders of the twelve major religions of the world had come together in Assisi, Italy to pray for peace. Each leader had prayed the peace prayer from their religion. James, who was moved by their prayers, set them to music. He was then sponsored by the Peace Abbey in Boston to travel around the globe, a strolling troubadour singing on behalf of world peace. 

“Up until this time,” says James, “I’d never figured out how to combine the two great things in my life which were my music and my spirituality. I realized that when I was given those prayers, a synthesis took place. My music and my spiritual path became the same thing in that moment.” Using acoustic guitar as well as techno-looping devices to create rich layers of sound, James transported listeners into realms of heavenly bliss as he performed his prayers of peace worldwide.

In 1995, James decided to go to those places where peace was needed the most. Bosnia was at the top of his list. “The reason I wanted to go to Bosnia,” says James, “was because I knew that there is a power in music that cannot be found in many other places. I felt that maybe people could hear through music and prayer what they were not hearing through the politicians—that it was time to turn toward peace.”

While in Bosnia, James was led to the “Emissaries of Light,” an elusive community of thirteen men and women who lived in seclusion in the mountains along the border of Bosnia and Croatia. Their purpose was to hold the consciousness of peace and extend it out to the world via a twelve hour daily meditation. 

Book CoverJames wrote Emissary of Light, a book based on his experiences while in Bosnia. “The emissaries were nurturing that inner part of us until the time when we would be able to spring from that same place. At that time, they would no longer be needed as a physical anchor point, because each one of us would become that anchor point, giving that same light to each other. 

“The message,” says James, “that the Emissaries want to give to the world is that this is the time we’ve been waiting for—“We’re ready.” We’re ready to transform the world into a world based upon the laws of love rather than the rules of fear.” 

According to James, “there is a quantum leap that’s about to take place, and we’re ready to take that leap. When that happens, the world will transform by itself, simply because we will have transformed our minds about the world.”

James, Gregg Braden, and Doreen Virtue are inviting people from all over the globe to participate with them in yet another history-making event entitled, “The Cloth of Many Colors Peace Project.” On January 1, 2000, a banner composed of millions of four inch squares of cloth will be wrapped around the United Nations as a “powerful symbol of a world united in peace.”

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