ADDRESS BY DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF UNOG AT MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR THOSE KILLED
IN ATTACK ON UNITED NATIONS IN BAGHDAD
GENEVA, 29 August (UN Information Service) -- Following is the address by Sergei Ordzhonikidze, the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, at the memorial service held today at the Palais des Nations for those killed and wounded in the attack on United Nations headquarters in Baghdad on 19 August 2003:
We are still stunned by the shock, the sadness and the indignation. We can hardly believe that a number of our colleagues are no longer with us, and that a number of others are injured. We gather today to think, together, about the events of what is probably one of the most difficult and painful weeks, such as we have never seen before. We are here to reinvigorate our force by sharing our pain to find some elements of consolation from their sacrifice.
It is no easy task, leaving your loved ones, and travelling to a foreign land, to help those in search of a better life. On the contrary, it is only individuals with a deep and profound belief in the need for peace, in respect for human rights and the dignity of each individual human being, that are capable of such generosity. Our colleagues worked tirelessly in Iraq, under extremely dangerous conditions. Why? Because they believed that they could make a difference.
Yet, in a senseless and cruel moment they have been taken from us. Their lives tragically cut short, leaving us with profound sadness. Our Geneva family has suffered deeply as we realize we will no longer see their familiar faces, or enjoy their company.
As we recall their vitality and goodness, their humour and compassion, we must also focus on the legacy they have left behind. They were in Iraq with a noble purpose, a task to perform, and a goal to reach. Their presence was a testimony to their unwavering commitment and dedication to principles of the United Nations. We must honour this commitment by continuing the work they began. Let us show the world that they will never be forgotten. That their work was not in vain. That we are proud of them.
As the Secretary-General said, “the UN is not simply a job, it is a calling”. Indeed, the most fitting memorial will be to find a way to complete the job started.
At this time, let us also not forget those who were injured in last week’s tragedy. Many still lie in a critical condition. We pray for their speedy recovery. Time will heal their physical pain, but the emotional scars will last a lifetime. They need our support.
In moments like this I struggle to find the right words of comfort to give you. So I will turn to Jorge Luis Borges -– a passionate poet, and dedicated citizen of Geneva who lies alongside my friend, Sergio. He wrote:
“Nothing is built on stone; all is built on sand, but we must build as if the sand were stone.”
I believe our fallen comrades understood these words better than most. Even where there seemed to be no foundation, they persevered. But, they are no more, and the world is a poorer place; yet we, the United Nations, are richer for having known them. Today, where there is no stone to build on, we must together create that stone.
Let us show courage and resolve in the face of terrorism, and strength in our bereavement. Let us show the world a more determined, more united “UN”, to honour the memory of our fallen colleagues.
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