New York

16 September 2013

Secretary-General's remarks at the Church of the Holy Family

Thank you for your warm welcome.  I am deeply honoured to join you once again. 
This is a special event for me each and every year. 
In this annual rite, all faiths come together.  We draw from one another.  We collect our   strength. 
And strength is what we need at this time of year. 
The opening of the General Assembly is upon us -- along with its chock-a-block schedule.   
There will be many meetings -- many important events and dialogues. 
I plan to have about 100 bilateral discussions with world leaders in 15-minute increments -- one after another. 
Some call it the diplomatic equivalent of speed dating!
We will have a full plate of issues on the table.
But I am reminded here that when there is a full plate before us, we should take a moment to do something very important. 
We should say grace. 
We should give thanks.
For me, it starts with the simple gratitude that the world community unites each year in such a way to focus on our big challenges.
Think of the many centuries of conflict and bloodshed before the institution – the blessing – of the United Nations finally emerged. 
We give thanks for the progress that our common efforts have helped secure.
Since we last gathered one year ago, the United Nations adopted the Arms Trade Treaty finally regulating the international transfer of conventional weapons.

We had international standards for the global trade in arm-chairs but not the global trade in arms.  That has now changed.

We give thanks for a new framework for peace and hope in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – and a new United Nations declaration to end sexual violence approved this spring.
We give thanks for the efforts by so many partners who have given their all to help meet the Millennium Development Goals.  In April, we crossed the 1,000 day deadline to achieving these targets for human progress.
My granddaughter in fact was born at that time. 
She is constant reminder of the work we must do so that every child can have the opportunities that she might have.
I thank her for wasting no time to make sure her grandfather stayed on message! 
We give thanks for the women and men of the United Nations and so many other humanitarians risking their lives in the hardest and most hazardous places to serve others in need. 
Now we have the great test of Syria before us and other fires raging. 
We ask for strength to tackle our immediate crises but also the determination to focus on the long-term.  
A more sustainable world.  Better health for every women and every child.  A world of no hunger.  Education and a life of dignity for all. 
Earlier this year, I had the honour of having an audience with a great champion for peace, His Holiness Pope Francis.
I met him in the first month of his tenure.  I was profoundly moved by his passion and compassion.  He has sparked the global imagination with his deep sense of humility and humanity – in large ways and small. 
Everywhere I travel, I strive to meet with religious leaders. 
I also meet with everyday believers. There is wonderful diversity in the world’s many religions – yet they share the basic values of peace and human dignity for all. These are also the goals of the United Nations.
I count on people of faith to build bridges – from one religion to another … from one community to another … and from the present to the future we want.
I count on you to help us narrow the gaps between the world as it is and the world as we know it can be. 
That is our privilege and obligation – yours and mine together. 
And so as world leaders meet this month at our global table, let us join forces in gratitude and a shared commitment to clean our full plates and build a world of dignity for all.