15 September 2004

"Here Today We Are One", A Single Human Family United, Says Secretary-General in Remarks at Annual Interfaith Service

NEW YORK, 14 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following are Secretary-General Kofi Annan's remarks at the annual Interfaith Service of Commitment to the Work of the United Nations at St. Bartholomew's Church, New York, 14 September:

The United Nations community draws strength from this annual interfaith service here in your Church.  We thank you for this strong expression of support for the Organization.

The diversity on display in this pulpit, and the long list of organizations that have devoted time and energy into making this service possible, offer a resounding answer to all those who despair at the prospect of ever achieving global harmony.

For here today, we are one:  a single human family; united in our embrace of the "other"; and unanimous in our belief in inter-religious and cross-cultural understanding.

And together, with our modest prayers, we hope to generate trust and goodwill that will help with the hard work of the United Nations General Assembly. And we have lots to tackle during the new session that begins today.

Mr. President [of the General Assembly, Jean Ping], we wish you luck.

Surely one issue that should be very much on the minds of all the leaders who will gather is the need to rebuild trust and confidence in the collective security system.  And rebuild trust and confidence between people of different faiths and cultures.  Conflicts, terrorism and other events of the past several years have exacerbated tensions amongst people.

Tolerance is essential.  But it is not enough to call from the sidelines for peaceful coexistence, and then go passively about one's life.  Tolerance cannot just be a grudging forbearance of other people's differences.  Tolerance is not a synonym for "putting up with" other people's perceived peculiarities.

Quite the contrary, it must be an active effort to learn more about each other, to understand the wellsprings of those differences, and to discover what is best in each other's beliefs and traditions.  Only in that way can we overcome suspicion and prejudice.  Only in that way will we heal past wounds and move ahead together.

This service is a good example of what I mean. I thank you for your prayers, and hope that they will be heard by the international community.

Thank you very much.

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