New York

10 October 2006

Secretary-General's message to the United Nations Orthodox Prayer Service at St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral [delivered by Edward Mortimer, Director of Communications, Executive Office of the Secretary-General]

Let me express my sincere gratitude to you for once again organizing this prayer service for the United Nations. By coming together on this occasion every year, you give us comfort as we contemplate the tribulations of the past year, and encouragement as we prepare to take on the trials ahead.

In this way, you provide a much-needed sense of continuity amidst of the challenges that never cease to confront our United Nations.

The work of the United Nations would be hard to imagine without the steadfast dedication of men and women of faith. 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 dialogue, cooperation and respect between people of different belief, tradition or culture.

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 we all acknowledge certain 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 the international law of human rights. They animate the United Nations Charter and lie at the root of our search for global harmony and peace.

So 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 one who believes in the power of prayer, I am grateful for all your prayers these past 10 years. And I know the United Nations will look to you for continued support in the years ahead.