Officially the United Nations General Assembly opened on September 18th but it was preceded on the evening of the 17th with an annual prayer service at the Church of the Holy Family. Secretary General, António Guterres noted that this moment is the bridge between one General Assembly and the next. While remarking that we live in abysmal times he said that the presence of the Archbishop from Colombia demonstrated that peace is possible. This instills hope. We have a great opportunity to translate prayer into actions for peace.
Archbishop Luis Castro Quiroga of Colombia, the former President of the Colombian Bishops Conference and one of the leaders in the Colombian Peace Process, gave a reflection on some very practical way to bring about peace. Peace comes through dialogue, accepting difference, listening. There is a dual aspect to peace – inner peace and exterior peace in all spheres including environmental. Peace bring joy. Peace is a reconciliatory process with God and others. It engages both truth and reparation. Truth cannot be hidden. Peace to be a just peace is peace with mercy. It engages with the full weight of the law and and full weight of mercy. This is the meaning of transitional justice. It is not impunity and neither is it penalty. Peace has an ethical, spiritual and cultural foundation. It engages a change of perception from seeing the other as different to seeing the other as my sister or brother.
The President-elect of the 73rd Session of the General Assembly María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, also participated ‘desiring to drink from the well of wisdom and good will.’ Too many people are living at the edge. Her Excellency recalled the plight of people on the move and their great desire for peace. Migrants she noted are not a threat. People are moving because of hunger and conflict. Her Excellency expressed a deep desire for multilateralism to work within the General Assembly and her wish to facilitate such a process. She also looked to the faith communities for support.
Her Excellency María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés is Ecuadorean and only the 4th women to hold the position since the founding of the United Nations some 73 years ago. Her Excellency dedicated her Presidency to “all the women of the world”, and paid tribute to the legacy of three who held the post before her, namely Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit (India) in 1949, Angie Brooks (Liberia) in 1969, and Haya Rashed Al-Khalifa (Bahrain) in 2006.
Image – credit to the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM)
There are 7 focus areas – gender equality; migrants and refugees; decent work; people with disabilities; youth, peace and security; environment; and revitalization of the United Nations. Spanish French English
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Quote: “The General Assembly is not just the most democratic and representative forum in the world. It is a space embracing the most diverse cultures of the world. You, dear colleagues, constitute an invaluable center of global thought and vision which has tremendous influence in the world and on our governments and our peoples. Your thinking, wisdom and vision set the standards for our cooperation and development, among our nations and for our people. Each day we must search for solutions to the most difficult problems that face humanity and our planet.”