Fourth Annual Orthodox Prayer Service for the United Nations Community
October 15, 2004
New York, NY - The fourth annual Orthodox Prayer Service and Reception for the United Nations Community was celebrated on Tuesday, October 12, 2004 at St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral, at 6:30pm. This year, the service, jointly sponsored by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, (SCOBA) and the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches in America, (SCOOCH) was presided over by His Eminence Archbishop Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim of the Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese for the eastern United States. Under the theme of overcoming violence in the world, suggested by the World Council of Churches' program of the "Decade to Overcome Violence", the service focused on the verse from the Gospel of St. Matthew 5:9: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
The distinguished speakers at this year's service were His Excellency Kaha Chitaia, Deputy Permanent Representative of Georgia to the United Nations, His Excellency Ambassador Teruneh Zenna, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to the United Nations, Mr. Giandomenico Picco, Under Secretary-General of the United Nations and Personal Representative of His Excellency Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, and His Eminence Archbishop Karim.
His Excellency Chitaia spoke of the need for the Church to speak out when there is "even the slightest evidence of violence, whether it be of moral, ethical or criminal character..." The Church must "manifest clearly its position in regards to such violations. This manifestation should be motivated only by the moral principles of the Church, and not other motivations." The position of the Church, he said, "would not only serve as a strong message for political leaders and public figures, but also strengthen the faith of the believers."
In his remarks, Ambassador Zenna noted several causes of violence, such as the increase of poverty in a "rapidly globalizing world." "There is," he said, "an absolute necessity for all of us to speak loudly and in unison against oppression and the exclusion of one by the other." We "Orthodox Christians," he noted, "must emphasize service for the disadvantaged and oppressed as a necessary consequence of our recognition of all humanity bearing the image of God." His Excellency also addressed the violence of terrorists, "who for their own perceived reasons hate and fear other people, their values, culture and civilizations."
In the message of the UN Secretary General, His Excellency Kofi Annan wrote, "At a time when some would seek to divide the human family by exploiting differences among peoples, we need more than ever the contribution of men and women of faith who defend and promote the practice of dialogue. That is why I am pleased to extend my best wishes to this prayer service for the United Nations Orthodox community. It is reassuring to know that you have gathered to celebrate your commitment to overcoming violence in our world and to reaffirm your rejection of intolerance and hatred. As you pray for the United Nations, I hope you will pray that whatever the challenges and crises that confront us, we may make this indispensable instrument as effective as it can be. Pray that world leaders find the wisdom and the will to use this tool to its full capacity, in the interest of the people it exists to serve. Pray for peace in the family of nations."
Archbishop Karim, presiding hierarch at the service, spoke of the place of the human being in creation, the role of the Holy Church in promoting peace and harmony among all people and the role of the United Nations in establishing peace among nations. Concerning the United Nations, His Eminence stated: "Peace is only possible when it is built on justice. As long as I am not able to identify with my neighbor's pain and suffering, we will not have peace. The United Nations, therefore, is called upon to supercede the narrow political interests of its member nations and truly help to establish a world based on true human values which form the basis of all human rights and the dignity of humankind. Among other things, this requires the U.N. to be as even-handed as possible in implementing its resolutions. Eradication of violence and true peace will never arrive by the dictates of the so-called world powers but rather the recognition of the dignity of each human being as a child of God, created in God's image and likeness."
Approximately 200 persons were in attendance, including Ambassadors, Mission heads and personnel from the United Nations, as well as many area clergy and laity. Among the church dignitaries present were Metropolitan Herman of the Orthodox Church in America, Archbishop Vsevolod of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, Bishop Antoun Khouri of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, Archbishop Abune Matthias of the Archdiocese of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the USA, Archbishop Mor Titus Yeldho of the Malankara Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church of North America, Archbishop Mor Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo, Syria, Bishop David of the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, and Bishop Vicken Aykazian, of the Armenian Church of America.
Liturgical music offerings were made by the St. Vladimir Orthodox Theological Seminary Octet, the Yared Ethiopian Choir, the St. Mark's Syrian Orthodox Cathedral Choir and Florence Avakian, organist of the St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral Choir. Following services, a reception was held in the Kavookjian Auditiorium.
The Fifth Annual Orthodox Prayer Service for the United Nations community will be held in October 2005, at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. http://www.goarch.org/en/news/NewsDetail.asp?id=1217