Archbishop of Canterbury, Presiding Bishop address global concerns in UN meeting

Published January 27, 2010

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams

Global crises, such as those in Haiti and Sudan, were among pressing issues addressed at the United Nations headquarters Jan. 26 as Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for a 45-minute meeting.

The church leaders were joined byAnglican Observer at the U.N. Hellen Wangusa and U.K. Representative to the U.N. Sir Mark Lyall Grant.

Williams offered his “profound condolences” for the loss of so many U.N. staff in the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that devastated Haiti Jan. 12, according to a press release from Lambeth Palace, the archbishop’s London residence. He also conveyed his “deep appreciation and admiration” for the work of the U.N. in some of the poorest parts of the world.

Jefferts Schori told ENS that she welcomed the opportunity to highlight the Episcopal Church’s presence in Haiti, “for more than 150 years providing education and health care,” and underscore “that we would be there for centuries to come.” The Episcopal Diocese of Haiti is numerically the largest diocese in the Episcopal Church.

Responding to Haiti’s immediate needs, Episcopal Relief & Development is coordinating shipments of medical supplies and food to affected rural communities and parishes, organizing air drops to isolated rural areas and the provision of satellite phones and solar power chargers. The agency has said it is establishing a long-term response to the disaster.

Another critical issue addressed by the leaders was Sudan’s faltering peace process and their concerns that immediate action must be taken to ensure that the country doesn’t plunge back into civil war.

“I spoke about what we had learned from Rwanda and Liberia and how we and the U.N. might challenge the world to prevent another massive round of violence in Sudan,” Jefferts Schori told ENS.

Williams told Ban that the Episcopal Church of Sudan “is completely committed to peace and development and will work with all agencies, governmental and non-governmental, committed to the same goals. Its infrastructure is at the service of the community, the government and international agencies.”

Williams and Sudan Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul met with U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown Jan. 11 to underscore the urgency for the international community to take action on Sudan, especially as the country approaches its first democratic elections in 24 years in April, to be followed in 2011 by a referendum that will give southerners the opportunity to determine whether to secede from the north or remain a unified country.

Sudan’s 20-year civil war, which claimed more than 2 million lives and displaced about 7 million people, came to an end in January 2005 when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed by the two warring parties — the Government of Sudan in the north and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in the south.

Williams said he hoped the U.N. Security Council would “play a strong role in pressing the Sudanese government to implement in full the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement,” the Lambeth press release said, noting that the international community also “had a duty to support the people of southern Sudan to build capacity including in education and health.”

Other key issues addressed in the meeting with Ban included the United Nations Millennium Development Goals; the vulnerability of children in armed conflict and trafficking; the church’s role in the education and health sectors in some of the poorest countries in Africa; and the church’s role in sustaining and building grass roots capacity, especially in the most fragile and war-torn communities.

“The secretary general paid tribute to the importance of faith communities in developing and sustaining infrastructure in areas critical to the delivery of the MDGs,” the release said.

The meeting with Ban formed part of a packed week-long agenda for Williams, who will be a keynote speaker in the 2010 Trinity Institute’s National Theological Conference, titled “Building an Ethical Economy: Theology and the Market Place.”

Earlier on Jan. 26, Williams held consultations with U.N. Ambassadors and senior staff from a range of U.N. agencies.

Radhika Coomaraswamy, U.N. special representative for children and armed conflict, was among those who welcomed Williams. They discussed how the rehabilitation of children who had become caught up in conflict “was a key role for churches, so too was protecting children from the vortex of abuse and violence including trafficking and abduction,” the Lambeth Palace release said.

“The nurture of children is the touchstone of our mature care of humanity,” said Williams.

Williams addressed the issue of safeguarding children from the effects of the global economic crisis during an afternoon keynote address and a panel discussion Jan. 26 at the Desmond Tutu Center on the campus of the General Theological Seminary in New York City.

The panel was organized by Wangusa’s office and included the Rev. Theodora Brooks, vicar of St. Margaret’s Church in the South Bronx; the Rev. Robert V. Lee III, founding chairman and CEO of Fresh Ministries; and Salil Shetty, director of the U.N. Millennium Campaign. (ENS story here).

Williams’ visit to the U.S. will conclude on Jan. 30, when he is scheduled to deliver the annual Father Alexander Schmemann Memorial Lecture and receive an honorary doctorate from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, New York.

— Matthew Davies is editor and international correspondent of the Episcopal News Service.


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