United Nations | Norman Rockwell
Today, October 24th, is United Nations Day. On this day 75 years ago in San Francisco, representatives of 50 countries met to agree a Charter which committed those nations (and those who subsequently joined the UN) to promote peace, development and human rights; pledging enhanced action to achieve its global mission.
At its heart, The UN strives for a reassertion of the ‘universal values of tolerance, mutual respect and human dignity.’
Protecting those caught up in armed conflict and the promotion of world peace also involves the UN in working for climate change, averting nuclear catastrophe and fighting injustice. Promoting global peace, security and prosperity is the primary mission of the UN and allied to this is the protection of the most vulnerable members of the global community. The UN asserts that “No one has the right to remain indifferent to abject poverty and the suffering of others.”
The UN has lofty ideals which so often fail to be translated into real action for the world’s oppressed and poor. Whilst it stands for justice, that is often diluted by political activities designed to maintain the strong against the weak, to promote self-interest over freedom and justice for all.
But without the UN and its work the world would be a poorer and more dangerous place.
The UN is marking its 75th anniversary at a time of great disruption for the world, compounded by an unprecedented global health crisis with severe economic and social impacts. The following words are from the UN’s 75th Anniversary website:
“Will we emerge stronger and better equipped to work together? Or will distrust and isolation grow further? 2020 must be a year of dialogue, when we come together to discuss our priorities as a human family, and how we can build a better future for all.
Covid-19 is a stark reminder of the need for cooperation across borders, sectors and generations. Our response will determine how fast the world recovers, whether we achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and how well we handle pressing challenges: from the climate crisis to pandemics, inequalities, new forms of violence, and rapid changes in technology and in our population.
But just when we need collective action more than ever, support for global cooperation has been flagging. In many countries, public trust in traditional institutions is in decline and relations between countries have been under strain. Will this pandemic bring the world closer together? Or will it lead to greater mistrust? Global dialogue – and action – is now more urgent than ever.”
What sort of world do we want? and What are your hopes for the future? – are the questions the UN is seeking to get people to answer – with some success. Over a million people so far have responded in different ways, especially through art. For more information and examples of the art go to:
Aspirations and hopes, dreams and visions which fire the imaginations and encourage real action need to be fed. At its best the UN is trying to achieve what Cardinal Suenens once identified when he said:
Happy are those who dream dreams and are prepared to pay the price to make them come true.
That is what the UN at its best is trying to do. That is why we must pray.
A Prayer for the United Nations
God of compassion,
walk alongside all of your global stewards
who work to create a more just and peaceful world.
In the face of the world pandemic,
equip the United Nations community
with a sense of urgency and humility that lets Your will be done.
May nations and peoples work together
to bring relief, compassion and care
with a determination that through medical & scientific skills
and governments working for the common good of all,
people may feel safe again.
May healing and hope grow in our world-wide communities
alongside a new spirit of working together to defeat the virus.
Each day you give bread enough for all,
grant us also the wisdom to ensure that everyone has enough.
Teach the world’s leaders to forgive,
to extend welcome across borders.
Show the world a new path beyond greed, oppression, and division.
We pray for a world united.
We pray for the power to save succeeding generations
from war, violence and self-interest.
We pray for a glory that reaffirms the dignity
and worth of every person.
We pray that your grace might ensure life in larger freedom forever, for all of your children.