12 September 2006

Universal Values of Mercy, Tolerance Are at Root of United Nations Search for Global Harmony, Peace, Says Secretary-General at Holy Family Church

NEW YORK, 11 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks today by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the Holy Family Church in New York:

Let me thank the Parish of the Holy Family Church for organizing this service, as it does every year.

We in the United Nations family have come to depend on this annual event, both as a solace while we contemplate the tribulations of the past year, and as a source of strength as we prepare to take on the trials of the year ahead.

In this way, the Holy Family Church provides a much-needed sense of continuity in the midst of the challenges that never cease to confront our Organization.

This is the last time I address this service as Secretary-General of the United Nations.  I'd like to take the opportunity to thank all of you for your support over the years.

Men and women of faith are crucial to the United Nations.  As teachers and guides, you can be agents of change and inspire people to new levels of public service.  You can help bridge the chasms of ignorance, fear and misunderstanding that plague our world.  You can set an example of interfaith dialogue, cooperation and respect.

My great predecessor Dag Hammarskjöld once said "The United Nations stands outside -- necessarily outside -- all confessions.  But it is, nevertheless, an instrument of faith.  As such, it is inspired by what unites, and not by what divides, the great religions of the world."

And it is still true: spiritual and religious practices differ widely, but at heart we are dealing in universal values: to be merciful, to be tolerant, to love thy neighbour.  No tradition can claim a monopoly on such teachings; they are ingrained in the human spirit and enshrined in international human rights law.  They animate the United Nations Charter and lie at the root of our search for global harmony and peace.

And so, as all the world's nations prepare to meet for the General Assembly next week, let us pray for our United Nations.

Let us pray that whatever challenges confront us, we may make this indispensable instrument as effective as it can be, in the interests of the people it exists to serve.

As someone who believes in the power of prayer, I am grateful for all your prayers these past 10 years.

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