In commemorating the upcoming 60th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations (UN), the general secretaries of eight regional ecumenical bodies and of the World Council of Churches (WCC) signed onto a letter that reaffirmed the ecumenical group’s “deep desire to support the United Nations at this critical time on the world scene.”
“We believe that the UN remains the indispensable instrument of the nations of the world if they are to remove the scourge of war from the earth and to establish the conditions for peace, notably: observance of human rights, a just sharing of the earth's resources, eliminating poverty and all forms of discrimination.” The letter read.
The leaders particularly assured the recipient of the letter – the UN secretary general Kofi Annan – that he has the “spiritual support”, “deep respect and trust” and “prayers of countless people of faith and goodwill around the world.”
Meanwhile, the letter also took note that the current structure of the UN does not reflect the needs of the poorer countries outside of Western Europe and North America, and urged the organization to “appraise its role” and an international peacekeeping device in the 21st century.
The letter was penned during a Sept 4 meeting of ecumenical leaders from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America and the Pacific, in Nairobi, Kenya. Signatories to the letter include: Rev. Dr H. Mvume Dandala, General Secretary All Africa Conference of Churches; Dr. Ahn Jae Woong, General Secretary Christian Conference of Asia; Rev. Dr Kingsley Lewis, Member Continuation Committee Caribbean Conference of Churches; Rev. Keith Clements, General Secretary Conference of European Churches; Rev. Israel Batista, General Secretary Latin American Council of Churches; Mr. Guirguis I. Saleh, General Secretary Middle East Council of Churches; Rev. Dr Karen Hamilton, General Secretary Canadian Council of Churches; Rev. Dr Bob Edgar, General Secretary National Council of Churches USA; and Rev. Dr Sam Kobia, General Secretary World Council of Churches.
The following is the full text of the letter, as released by the WCC on Sept 7, 2004:
Letter from Regional Ecumenical Organizations
meeting in Nairobi, Kenya
to United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan
4 September 2004
We write to you from Nairobi, Kenya, where we are meeting as representatives of the Christian ecumenical bodies of eight continents and regions of the world - Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America, the Pacific - and of the World Council of Churches. We are meeting during a time of appalling and continuing instances of conflict and violence, from nearby Sudan to North Ossetia in Russia and in the Middle East, but we greet you in the name of him who said, "Blessed are the peacemakers”.
In May this year several of us were privileged to meet with you in your office in New York. On 17 May Dr Sam Kobia, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, met with you and on 24 May you received a delegation of church representatives from the USA, Canada and Europe.
We recall those meetings with deep gratitude and appreciation. We were moved by your readiness to find time in your schedule to receive us and by the evident seriousness with which you listened to us and attended to our concerns. We further appreciated your sincere recognition of the positive role which faith and religious commitment can and do play in working for reconciliation in a world of conflict and violence. We left much encouraged by a real sense of commonality of interest and purpose between yourself and ecumenical Christianity.
Among the fruits of Dr Kobia's conversation with you has been the call to churches throughout the world to observe 21 September as a day of prayer for peace, to be shared with people of all faiths, and for this we are deeply thankful.
All of us meeting here in Nairobi wish to take this opportunity of reaffirming the deep desire of our organisations and member churches to support the United Nations, and you personally, at this critical time on the world scene. We believe that the UN remains the indispensable instrument of the nations of the world if they are to remove the scourge of war from the earth and to establish the conditions for peace, notably: observance of human rights, a just sharing of the earth's resources, eliminating poverty and all forms of discrimination. In face of all tendencies either to disregard it or exploit it for particular national ends, we believe that the unique status of the UN in the eyes of all its member states must be restored, accompanied by a renewed respect for international law and the desire to solve conflicts by a truly multilateral approach. We are committing ourselves to promoting this view of the UN in our respective church constituencies.
Soon the UN will be marking the 60th anniversary of its founding. We share the hopes of many that this will present an opportunity for a just appraisal of the role which the UN has played since the Second World War, and at the same time an examination of how it can be adapted to fulfill more effectively its role in a world which has changed so much in sixty years. Coming as we do from all regions of the world, we are very conscious that to many peoples and nations, especially outside Europe and North America, the inherited structures of governance of the UN do not adequately reflect the present realities and needs of the world as a whole. We look forward to sharing in and contributing to the coming debate on these issues, for we believe in the UN and in its future.
Returning to a more personal level, we especially wish you to know the deep respect and trust in which you are held among us and those whom we represent. It is difficult for us to conceive the pressures you must experience day by day, but we hope that on your part you can imagine the spiritual support with which you are surrounded. Be assured that every discouraging sign which you encounter, whether of indifference to or hostility towards the UN and your work, is being countered by the hopes and prayers of countless people of faith and goodwill around the world. We will always be ready to offer signs of this support in further meetings with you, and to hear your own expectations and hopes of the churches in facing the current challenges for peace and justice. Indeed we would welcome the opportunity of such a meeting before the end of this year and one of our colleagues will be in contact with your office about this possibility.
Attached to this sentiment we would like to offer a specific suggestion. We believe it would be very appropriate if, in addition to your statements on particular problems, crises and conflicts, and your reports to the governing bodies of the UN, you felt able from time to time to deliver what would amount to a "State of the World" message, addressing global issues and placing particular problems in a world perspective - and also pointing to wherever you see signs of hope. This, we believe, would not only serve to enhance the profile of the UN in the eyes of people at large, but also would help to generate and spread the sense that we are indeed living in one interdependent world where there can be no real peace and security for any if there is not peace and security for all.
These thoughts, wishes and hopes, which we convey for your kind attention, come with our heartfelt prayers that you may be given all needed strength and wisdom and find blessing as you seek to fulfill the responsibilities entrusted to you.