13 October 2005

Struggle against Violence Committed in Name of Religion, Secretary-General Urges Orthodox Christians Associated with United Nations

NEW YORK, 12 October (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message to the fifth annual prayer service in New York yesterday, 11 October, for Orthodox Christians associated with the United Nations, as delivered by Edward Mortimer, Director of Communications, Executive Office of the Secretary-General:

Thank you for inviting me once again to your annual service.  I am sorry not to be with you in person.  But be assured that I am very much with you in spirit.

The United Nations, whose vocation is to bring together all the peoples of the world, must by necessity include people of many faiths, and of none.  Its task is not to deny or to relativize the contribution that any faith or tradition can make to the solution of global problems, nor yet to proclaim that all faiths are identical.  Rather, the United Nations encourages each community to make its own contribution in its own way, and to scan the contribution of others not for what is alien or worthy to be eschewed, but for what is of universal value and worthy of further study.

As the Outcome Document of the recent World Summit has put it, "we recognize that all cultures and civilizations contribute to the enrichment of humankind.  We acknowledge the importance of respect and understanding for religious and cultural diversity throughout the world.  In order to promote international peace and security, we commit ourselves to advancing human welfare, freedom and progress everywhere, as well as to encouraging tolerance, respect, dialogue and cooperation among different cultures, civilizations and peoples."

Indeed, such exchanges and efforts of mutual respect and understanding are more than ever necessary in an age when acts of violence are committed in the name of religion, with the effect -- and perhaps the intention -- of provoking mutual mistrust and conflict between people of different faiths.  All of us who prize the ideals of the United Nations must struggle with heart and soul against such reactions, and unite to defend the universal values of peace and of learning through dialogue.

It is in that spirit that I welcome a service such as yours, which brings together the followers of a particular faith -- Orthodox Christianity -- within the United Nations community, not in an exclusive spirit, but welcoming others with your ears as well as your voices.  I join you in your prayer that the ideals of the United Nations may be realized in deed as well as in word.  And I ask you to pray for me and my colleagues, the servants of the United Nations -- for our safety among the perils of this world, and for the effectiveness of our work to make the world safer, fairer and freer for all humankind.

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