12 September 2003


NEW YORK, 11 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the annual interfaith service of commitment to the work of the United Nations at St. Bartholomew's Church, New York, delivered today by Gillian M. Sorensen, Assistant Secretary-General for External Relations:

The opening of the General Assembly session in September every year is always a moment of considerable expectation.  This year, we approach it with heavy hearts.

Today marks the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United Nations’ host city and country.  Families continue to cope with the sudden loss of loved ones.  The skyline, too, still looks wounded and incomplete -- and almost unmoored without its downtown anchor.

The UN family has likewise been jolted as never before.  Last month, in Baghdad, it was our turn to be the victim of a terrorist attack -- one that took from us cherished friends and colleagues, and has jeopardized our ability to come to the aid of Iraqis in their time of need.

But if our hearts are filled with sorrow, if our minds are unsettled by images of violence, our spirits can still draw strength from occasions such as this, where people of different faiths and cultures come together in friendship and prayer.  We need that strength.

You have dedicated this service to what should be one of the world's leading concerns -- the world's precious freshwater resources -- but one which is too often neglected.  Water is one of our lifelines, and figures prominently in the symbolism and rituals of all the faiths and traditions represented at this service.  Yet, despite its centrality, freshwater continues to be used and abused as if there were endless supplies, and too many people lack access to it.

And so, at this troubled moment, on the eve of a new General Assembly session and in this, the International Year of Freshwater, let us all plant seeds of progress, let us water them with political will, and let us tend them with tolerance so that one day, we can all share a harvest of peace and security. 

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