The head of the World Council of Churches (WCC) has sent a letter of congratulations to South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon on his election last Friday as the United Nations Secretary General.
In the letter WCC General Secretary the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia notes the Korean’s "rich experience" as an international diplomat and civil servant, and ensures him of the Council’s prayer and support.
In particular, it was emphasized that reform of the United Nations was an "important task" that the new U.N. head will face.
The international community is concerned about "the urgency of carrying out these reforms" that will "no doubt receive your urgent attention and action," Kobia says in his Oct. 16 letter.
The general secretary reports that at the WCC meeting in Brazil last February, the Council's principal governing body, the Assembly, called for "the ongoing participation of civil society organizations and faith communities in the work of the U.N. … as a means of encouraging transparency and accountability as well as of availing itself of essential expertise and information".
Religions and religious organizations play an important role "in addressing issues of security, human rights, development," and there is a "growing interplay between religion and politics," Kobia notes.
Kobia concludes his letter by evoking the possibility of an early meeting with the new U.N. head so as to be able to congratulate him in person, and also to "exchange views about how the WCC and its more than 340 member churches can assist and support [him] in [his] new responsibilities."
Both the U.N. and the WCC were created in the immediate post-World War II period. The WCC-in-formation helped to shape the U.N. Charter; the Council has been closely involved with the U.N. ever since its inception and, through its Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA), was among the first non-governmental organizations to be granted consultative status with the U.N.
The full text of Kobia’s letter is as follows:
Dear Mr. Secretary General Elect,
We are delighted by the news of your election as Secretary General of the United Nations and extend to you our warm congratulations.
The World Council of Churches has followed with deep interest the developments at the United Nations since its inception, having itself come into being as a fellowship of the Churches around the world in the year 1948, with similar objectives of promoting international peace and security, fundamental human rights, practice of tolerance and promotion of economic and social advancement of all peoples..
You come into your new high office with a rich experience spread over a broad spectrum of international concerns ranging from Nuclear Test Ban Treaty to the reunification of the Korean Peninsula and its people. You bring to your office the benefit of being an international diplomat as well as a renowned civil servant who will pay equal attention to the needs of all member states of the United Nations, be they big or small.
Sir, you take the mantle of your office at a most difficult moment in the life of the United Nations Organisation, and indeed, at a time of unprecedented complexity in world affairs. The expectations of the role you will play are not only high, but also contradictory. In these circumstances, we assure you of our prayers and support.
One of the important tasks that face you is the reform of the United Nations. This, no doubt will receive your urgent attention and action. The international community has in recent times expressed its concern about the urgency of carrying out these reforms.
Commenting on the need for reform of the United Nations, the statement of the IX WCC Assembly at Porto Alegre in February 2006, called on all states to ensure the ongoing participation of civil society organisations and faith communities in the work of the UN, at local and international levels as a means of encouraging transparency and accountability as well as means of availing itself of essential expertise and information. The role of religions and religious organisations in addressing issues of security, human rights, development and the growing interplay between religion and politics should be particularly taken note of.
It would be an honour for me to extend to you in person our congratulations and to exchange views about how the World Council of Churches and its more than 340 member churches can assist and support you in your new responsibilities. My colleagues in our Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) in New York will be in contact with your office early in the new year to consult with respect to such an opportunity, at the United Nations Headquarters, or on the occasion of an early visit by you to Geneva.
May our Lord’s blessings be with you as you prepare to assume your new responsibilities.
Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia