By Mark Michael

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby praised the ongoing work of the United Nations for peace around the world in a video message broadcast September 8 as part of ceremonies marking the 75th anniversary of the body’s founding, according to an ACNS report. He said the UN is “the icon of the hopes and dreams of a world that wants to live at peace,” and faith communities should play an important role in cooperative work for peace.

Welby serves as one of the United Nations Multi-Faith Advisory Council’s 45 members. The advisory council, which was established in 2018, provides strategic policy guidance to UN staff and delegates, especially on the intersections between religious communities and “the UN pillars of development, human rights and peace and security.”

He acknowledged that religion is not always seen as a force for peace, wryly noting that one of his Reformation-era predecessors, Reginald Pole, arranged for another, Thomas Cranmer, to be burnt at the stake because of doctrinal disagreements. “We have persecuted each other,” he continued. “We have fought each other. And it is in our capacity to change, to be new in the way we deal with each other, to disagree but to disagree well, that we can contribute to that vision of a peaceful world.

“Because if we can show that we can change, if we can show that we are deeply committed to supporting and upholding peace and reconciliation around the world, then anyone can do it. And if we can show that with more than 80 per cent of the world belonging to one faith community or another, then the world can find peace.

“That dream of peace should be our dream, and not just the dream of the UN. It should be our hope and prayer, and not just the hope and prayer of those caught up in conflict – always the poor, the weak, the vulnerable, women, children, as well as men.”

The UN General Assembly session will begin September 15, and will mostly be held online because of the pandemic, using pre-recorded video messages prepared by delegates and other world leaders. The body’s 75th anniversary will be officially marked on September 21, when UN Secretary General António Guterres will send out a call “to generate renewed support for multilateralism,” a need he says has become even more urgent in this time of worldwide suffering. A declaration marking the anniversary will be released at the anniversary celebration.

The UN Charter, which created the organization, was signed by delegates from 50 original member countries on June 26, 1945 at the conclusion of the San Francisco Conference, which hammered out its provisions. The charter took effect on October 24, 1945, after being ratified by the Security Council’s five member states and a majority of the other member countries. October 24 is celebrated around the world as United Nations Day.