7 October 2003


NEW YORK, 6 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Orthodox Christian prayer service for the United Nations community today, delivered by Joseph Stephanides, Director, Security Council Affairs Division, Department of Political Affairs:

I am grateful to the Joint Commission of Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches for organizing this service, as it has done for the past three years.

This year, we welcome such services more than ever.  Just seven weeks ago, our United Nations family was struck by a brutal and barbaric blow.  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.  We, whose work is so wrapped up in the tragedies of others, continue now to wrestle with one of our own.

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

As the grieving process takes its course, and the work of healing continues, we must also learn to draw 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, and carry on their work.  We must confront death by reaffirming the value of life.

So 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 people everywhere be allowed to live in dignity, freedom, justice and peace.

Thank you again for this wonderful example of interfaith dialogue and tolerance.  In an age of globalization and unprecedented circulation of people and ideas, it is encouraging to see people coming together in a spirit of mutual understanding and respect.  That is very much in keeping with the dialogue among civilizations that the United Nations has tried to foster.

And thank you for this expression of support for the United Nations itself.  At this troubled time for the human family, gatherings such as yours offer hope.  In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for a moving and memorable service.

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