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Seven world ecumenical leaders offer to meet with Kofi Annan

New York, September 27, 2005 – The staff heads of seven international ecumenical councils have sent a letter of “pastoral concern” to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, proposing a meeting and commenting on the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals and other challenges facing the world body. 

The ecumenical general secretaries expressed their “empathy for the people of the United States who are suffering so much” as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and commented on other issues, including the war in Iraq, “the dire and devastating situation” in Darfur and U.N.’s own organizational reform efforts. 

The letter was signed by the general secretaries of the All Africa Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches, the Caribbean Conference of Churches, the Latin American Council of Churches, the Middle East Council of Churches, the Canadian Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches USA. The general secretaries have been meeting in Washington and New York September 21-26. 

The ecumenical leaders, noting the importance Annan has placed on talking with communities of faith, offered to meet with him “to discuss the matters raised in this letter or any other matters that lie deeply on your mind, heart and spirit.”

The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which range from cutting worldwide poverty in half to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015 – have attracted the attention of U.N. member nations and leading development institutions.

“We wish to encourage you to continue this vital work and we pledge ourselves to work with you to try to hold the countries of the world accountable to those goals which are so vitally important to so many of our people in so many places,” the ecumenical leaders wrote.

The general secretaries called for an international peace keeping force in Iraq and urged Annan to call an international meeting “to discuss such a possibility.”

The leaders thanked Annan for keeping the situation in Darfur – characterized by the U.S. State Department as a “genocide” – before the eyes of the world. “We respectfully request the opportunity to work with you to ensure that the suffering and the necessity for action in Darfur are kept before the world community in such a way as to inspire and compel active response,” the letter said.

The Secretary General’s efforts to “implement a wide variety of reforms” to the world body was praised by the ecumenical leaders. “We wish to express … our solidarity and support for all you have been endeavoring to do to enable the United Nations to better serve the peoples of this globe in justice and equality,” the letter said.

The full text of the letter follows:

September 26, 2005 

Mr. Kofi Annan
Secretary General
United Nations
New York 

Dear Mr. Annan,  

As the representatives of the Christian ecumenical bodies of eight continents and regions of the world – Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America, the Pacific and of the World Council of Churches, we write to you this day from the city of New York. It is our practice to meet on a yearly basis to listen to each other, to talk to each other about the challenges and joys of being Church in our various regions and to move forward in the witness to which we believe Jesus Christ is calling us.  

We are meeting this year in the wake of the deadly devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and have expressed in prayer and in a public press conference held in Washington on Friday our solidarity with and our empathy for the people of the United States who are suffering so much at this time. We also remember at this time the many countries and the many people who suffered and continue to suffer in the wake of this year’s horrific tsunami and they are daily in our prayers.  

The timing of our meeting means that we are also gathering in the wake of the recent United Nations meeting to discuss and implement a wide variety of reforms to that international body whose presence is significant in all of our regions. We wish to express to you at this particular time, therefore, our solidarity and our support for all that you have been endeavouring to do to enable the United Nations to better serve the peoples of this globe in justice and equality. As we stated in our September 4, 2004 letter to you, written on the occasion of our meeting together in Nairobi, “…we believe that the unique status of the UN in the eyes of all its member states must be restored, accompanied by a renewed respect for international law and the desire to solve conflicts by a truly multilateral approach.” We continue, as we did in that letter of September 4, 2004, to commit ourselves to promoting this view of the UN in our respective church and regional constituencies.  

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for your leadership in terms of the Millennium Development Goals. We wish to encourage you to continue this vital work and we pledge ourselves to work with you to try and hold the countries of the world accountable to those goals which are so vitally important to so many of our people in so many places. As faith leaders, as church leaders we are committed to our mandate to ensure the care of the most vulnerable of God’s children and we see these goals as a way forward in this mandate, a way forward that ensures respect and dignity for all.  

We thank you too, Secretary General, for your consistent profiling of the situation in Darfur, for all the ways in which you have kept that dire and devastating situation before the world community. We respectfully request the opportunity to work with you to ensure that the suffering and the necessity for action in Darfur are kept before the world community in such a way as to inspire and compel active response.  

As you know from our meeting with you in May of 2004, we the leaders of the churches of the regions of the world are deeply concerned about the war in Iraq. We continue in our belief that the most effective opportunity in that deeply difficult and complex situation is an international force. We would be extremely supportive of you bringing together an international meeting to discuss such a possibility.  

Your Excellency, as we close this letter of pastoral concern for you and the enormous complexities of your role and office we remind you of the importance you placed on taking the opportunity to talk to the faith communities. We would be most willing to meet with you again, at your convenience to discuss the matters raised in this letter or any other matters that lie deeply on your mind, heart and spirit.  

We look forward to hearing from you and we continue to keep you in our prayers. 

On behalf of our respective independent regional ecumenical organizations and the World Council of Churches,  

This letter is facilitated through the offices the National Council of Churches USA. 

Rev. Dr. H. Mvume Dandala, General Secretary, All Africa Conference of Churches

Rev. Keith Clements, General Secretary, Conference of European Churches

Mr. Gerard A.J. Granado, General Secretary, Caribbean Conference of Churches

Rev. Israel Batista, General Secretary, Latin American Council of Churches 

Mr. Guirguis I. Saleh, General Secretary, Middle East Council of Churches

Rev. Dr. Karen Hamiltonl, General Secretary, Canadian Council of Churches

Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches

Contact: NCC News, Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2252; Leslie Tune, 202 544-2350


 

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