Gabriel Marcel, the French Catholic philosopher, who went to Caux in a sceptical mood in 1956, was particularly interested in these events in Africa. 'What seems to me absolutely marvellous and providential,' he wrote, 'is the confluence that has come about between Moral Re-Armament and the young nations which are being born into freedom. In this, as in other ways, Frank Buchman has shown a truly prophetic sense.'16
As an example of Buchman's own impact upon African leaders, Marcel quotes the experience of the Tolon Na, a distinguished Muslim, then President of the Northern Territories Council of Ghana and later High Commissioner in Lagos. 'It was at one of the morning meetings at Caux,' the Tolon Na related. 'Frank was there, and someone spoke about stealing and what it cost the nation. Then turning to me, as I was standing close to him, with a smile on his face, Frank quietly asked, "When did you last steal?"
'This struck me like a depth charge. My heart leapt into my mouth. I retired to my room and prayed to Allah to take me into His loving care, repenting for all the evils I had done since childhood. As I lay there by myself I felt God was still waiting for a reply to Frank's question. It was the greatest challenge that I had ever faced in my life. I thought and thought. At last relief came when I decided to write down the number of times (as far as I could remember) that I had stolen since my infancy. I made a note to return all the textbooks that I had brought home from the schools in which I had taught; I also noted all the persons to whom I owed apologies for wrongs I had done them. I decided to live Frank's way of life.'17 Buchman himself had a profound respect for this man. He said once, 'If Jesus Christ came to earth now, he would look like the Tolon Na.'
Buchman knew that the intense moral, ideological and psychological pressures upon African leaders would grow stronger. As early as 1949 Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, President of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons, was brought by a friend to a Moral Re-Armament home at a time when he had come to London to negotiate progress towards freedom, but was being vilified in the tabloid press as 'Black Mischief'. 'This is the first evening in England when I have ever been treated as an equal and expected to enjoy music and discuss things on an equal level with white men,' he commented. To the surprise of certain of his backers in Britain, including the Communist Daily Worker18, which wrongly suspected the Colonial Office of having a hand in it, he went on to Caux instead of to the Party-line Civil Rights Conference in Prague, from where he had been due to proceed to Moscow.*
(* I once told this story to Björn Hallström, who had been at that time editor of the Communist newspaper in Northern Sweden but had since left the Party. ‘You don’t need to tell me this story,’ he interrupted. ‘I was the man delegated to sit next to Zik on the plain to Prague. I had in my pocket a speech which we expected him to make which would be the signal for a prepared massacre of the British in Nigeria. But Zik never came, and when I got to Prague I was arrested for failing to bring him.’)