Tuesday, September 21, 2004

About the UN

When Christ sent the disciples out into the towns and villages, He exhorted them to be "wise as serpents, but gentle as doves" (Matt 10:16). That verse, like so many of the more quotable ones, has become many things to many people, but to me it suggests that we are encouraged, even exhorted, to be not just loving but discerning in our approach to the world.

That discernment needs to be fully engaged when we hear the United Nations (UN) being held out as a hope for peace and harmony in our times. On the face of it, the UN offers a promise that all nations will come together, all peoples will be accountable to a wise governing body that will uphold human rights, promote fair trade and punish tyrants -- who wouldn't want that?

But this is where the discernment comes in. It would be wonderful if the U.S. and all the world could place complete confidence in this body so that, in the words of the prayer, "we may live a calm and tranquil life in all peacefulness and dignity." But as this WSJ editorial bluntly puts it, the UN has no moral standing.

Two unpleasant points that have to be made about the UN:

* It has been depressingly ineffectual, mired in politics and red tape. The UN has looked on as populations were slaughtered in Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq and now Sudan. The UN issued the orders for Saddam Hussein to cease-and-desist; the U.S. has acted on those orders and now Secretary-General Kofi Annan says that our liberation of Iraq was "illegal".

* Worse, it has been found to be riddled with corruption, as shown in the underreported Oil-for-Food scandal that generated over $10 billion for Hussein's regime. This action was undertaken in the name of humanitarian aid for the people of Iraq -- in reality it was (in the words of the New York Times) ""an open bazaar of payoffs, favoritism and kickbacks."

Like so many others, I cherish the ideals under which the United Nations was founded. I pray for the day when violent men who love conquest and power will be brought into subjection to the mandates of a rightful authority. But for now I also urge fellow Christians not to mistake the good intentions of the UN for the good actions that can promote human rights for God's children everywhere.


Blogger Fr. John McCuen said...

"Trust ye not in princes, in the sons of men, in whom there is no salvation..." (Ps. 145; from the second antiphon at the Divine Liturgy)

The thought that somehow, people of good will can put an end to suffering and war by the power of their good intentions alone is horribly seductive to us, surrounded as we have been by a century of wars and rumors of war; with the tempo ever increasing. But if we look to any source of deliverance apart from Christ, we shall surely fail.

Grace, your warning is well stated. "He who has ears, let him hear!"

September 21, 2004 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger Grace said...

Thank you, Father, for bringing it into perspective so perfectly.

I get the idea that if I were more of a scholar, I would be looking to St. Augustine's "The City of God" for opinions on the idea of whether it's possible for governments and legislative bodies to be Christian. (I've never read it, but I believe his conclusion was 'no'.)

September 26, 2004 at 11:00 AM  
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