United Nations’ 60th Birthday Celebrated in St Paul’s.


A service of thanksgiving was held in St Paul’s cathedral on 24th October to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations Organisation. It was a splendid occasion, the importance of which was clearly recognised.  The list of distinguished guests included the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the prime minister and many others.  Dr Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, gave the sermon, praising the work of the United Nations and emphasising its central importance as a beacon of hope for peace in the world.


             In the act of dedication and commitment to the future, young people representing some of the member states proceeded to the dais while the Dean said: ‘As we gather to give thanks for the birth of the United Nations sixty years ago, born of the travail and horror of war, let us recommit ourselves and our future to its founding vision, in seeking to prevent and resolve conflict, and in bringing justice, peace and reconciliation to all peoples of the earth.’ He reminded the congregation that ‘the mushroom cloud is also 60 years old’.


Then a member of the UK delegation to the San Francisco conference of 1945 read out the inspiring preamble to the Charter, familiar to KPN readers:  ‘We, the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to humankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women, and of nations large and small.’ 


A Muslim member of the UNA was chosen to speak the words: ‘To ensure, that by acceptance of principles and institution of methods, that armed forces shall not be used, save in the common interest . . .’


The only jarring note for some of us was the presence of the prime minister.  It was known that Tony Blair was to speak, and it was hard to guess what he might say.  But in the event, he simply read out a verse from Isaiah, 61.1-9,11, which starts: ‘I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing etc.’  (This is a rather aggressive verse, in which the Old Testament God makes an ‘everlasting covenant’ with his people (the Jews) which would give his chosen people the feeling that they would be certain victors in wars.)


The hymns were well chosen for an emphasis on peace and justice, and it was possible to forget for a while the real world outside the great cathedral.


In an exclusive interview with KPN afterwards, Tony Blair confided that he had wanted to give ‘a personal reflection’ from the dais.   ‘I wanted to explain why we had to go around the UN on the invasion of Iraq,’ he said.  ‘You know, sometimes even a great organisation like the UN can be wrong, and when that happens, it’s not easy to go ahead and do what you know is the right thing.’  The UN, or rather certain members of the Security Council, had refused to cooperate with Britain and the US.  ‘We need an organisation like the UN,’ Mr Blair told us.  ‘But it certainly needs reform.  By blocking the path to a necessary pre-emptive war, it runs the risk of becoming irrelevant.’