16 September 2003


NEW YORK, 15 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks delivered by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the prayer service held at the Holy Family Church in New York today:

I am grateful to the Parish of the Holy Family Church for organizing this service, as it does every year.  This year, we welcome the occasion more than ever.  Our United Nations family joins your family at a time when we badly need the solace of prayer.


We need the comfort of sharing our grief with friends.  We need the strength that comes from uniting around our faith.  We need the hope that is inscribed in the windows of this Church.

Less than a month ago, our United Nations family was struck by a blow so brutal and barbaric that we are still struggling to comprehend it.  Colleagues, who were in Iraq with no other mission than to help its people build a better future, were taken from us, from their families, and from the people they were working to assist.

All this leaves us bewildered and numb.  We, whose work is so wrapped up in the tragedies of others, now face one of our own.  It is a loss almost impossible to take in.  That is why many of us will remember the 19th of August 2003 as the darkest day in our lives at the United Nations.  The attack on the UN mission in Baghdad will resonate in our consciousness for as long as we live.

Yet as the grieving process takes its course, and the work of healing begins, we must learn to draw strength and purpose from this experience.  We must learn to apply the lessons it has taught us.  We must find the best way to honour the memory of our fallen friends.  We must carry on their work.  We must confront death by reaffirming the value of life.


So as all the world’s nations meet for this General Assembly, I ask you to pray for our United Nations.  I ask you to pray for our lost colleagues, and for their families and loved ones.  I ask you to pray for the rest of us, that we may find the right way forward.  I ask you to pray for Iraq and for the whole family of nations, that their people be allowed to live in dignity, freedom, justice and peace.  May God bless you all.


Thank you very much.

* *** *