New York

18 September 2018

Secretary-General's remarks at 33rd Annual International Prayer Breakfast [as prepared for delivery]

It is a pleasure to join you again for this annual event as we begin a new session of the General Assembly.

We have a full week ahead, as Heads of State and Government arrive, and then a very busy session in the months to follow.  

The world faces urgent challenges, from climate change and inequality to armed conflict and intolerance, especially targeting migrants and refugees. We have to raise ambition across the board.

But this is also an era in which we have the technology, the knowledge and the wealth to move our world forward leaving no one behind.

As we strive to meet these tests, I take great inspiration from the power of the diversity that is on display here today at this prayer service.  

I continually draw strength from people of different traditions and backgrounds coming together at the United Nations to share burdens, solve problems and seize opportunities.

Such diversity is a richness, not a threat.

But to make diversity a success, we need to invest in social cohesion so that all people feel that their identities are respected, and that they have a stake in society.

Here I would like to recall what our dear departed friend Kofi Annan would often say when he heard people talking about so-called religious conflicts.

“The problem is not with the faith”, he would say, noting that all major religions embody the values of compassion and respect for others. 
 
The problem, he would stress, is with those who claim to be pious but instead distort religions in pursuit of god-awful purposes.

As we continue to mourn the late Secretary-General’s sudden passing, let us be guided by his faith in the ability of religious leaders to be models of peaceful coexistence.  

I look forward to working with people across the world to find common ground, to uphold our common humanity, and to achieve the common good.

Thank you.