Presbyterians urged to express condolence to U.N.

From PCUSA NEWS <PCUSA.NEWS@ecunet.org>
Date Wed, 27 Aug 2003 16:27:39 -0500

Note #7902 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

Presbyterians urged to express condolence to U.N.
August 27, 2003

Presbyterians urged to express condolence to U.N.

'This was their 9/11," official says of deadly Baghdad blast

By Alexa Smith

LOUISVILLE - The Peacemaking Program of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is
urging church members to send messages to the United Nations expressing
sorrow about the deaths of 23 U.N. employees and Iraqi citizens in a bombing
in Baghdad, Iraq, on Aug. 19.

The Rev. Marian McClure, director of the Worldwide Ministries Division, sent
an official letter of condolence last week to U.N. Secretary General Kofi

"I am keenly aware of the shock you must be experiencing over the bombing of
the United Nations Office in Baghdad, and the grief over the death of your
special envoy, Dr. S. Vieria De Mello, and many others," McClure wrote. "...
The world mourns this great loss, and we of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
profoundly share your grief.

"We send our sincere condolences to the families and continue in prayer for
comfort in their sorrow, and for recovery and healing for the surviving
victims of this awful tragedy."

The Rev. Jennifer Butler, director of the Presbyterian United Nations Office
in New York City, said sadness and grief were palpable in the U.N.
headquarters building after the bombing, which also injured scores of people.

"In talking to U.N. staff, I'm realizing that this was their 9/11, a
catastrophic event," she said, " - and symbolic in terms of U.N. work."

She said the Baghdad bombing illustrated how vulnerable humanitarian workers
have become in war-torn parts of the world.

Butler said her office will hand-deliver notes mailed to the Presbyterian
United Nations Office, 777 U.N. Plaza, New York, NY 10017.

McClure's letter affirms the U.N.'s role in humanitarian relief, peacekeeping
and nation-building. "We commend your clear and unequivocal stance iterating
the United Nation's resolve to continue its work in Iraq, and urge its
assertive engagement in the transition leading to its stabilization, with the
aim of turning its governance to the Iraqi people," it says, calling the U.N.
"the only proven, legitimate" organization capable of steering Iraq toward
national sovereignty, democracy and human rights.

McClure and Peacemaking Program Director Sara Lisherness were part of an
ecumenical delegation that met with Annan on March 28 and affirmed the
importance of the U.N. role in Iraq.

"I think the U.N. is the best effort we have at moving toward some kind of
forum where all the nations of the world have a voice at the table,"
Lisherness said, noting that Annan accepted the ecumenical leaders' support
and listened as they insisted that the Food-for-Oil Program be administered
properly and then turned over to the Iraqi people.

The Rev. Victor Makari, the PC(USA)'s Middle East liaison, said greater
international involvement in the rebuilding of Iraq is the most "redemptive"
way to find meaning in the deaths of those who went to Baghdad to help and
who became targets of attack.

According to Butler, all U.N. staff had been given an opportunity to leave
Iraq, but most elected to remain in Baghdad.

"A lot of the people that work for the U.N. do so from a spiritual basis ...
because of their beliefs or their faith," she said. "And it is important that
they feel the support of the religious community now ... hope, grace and

She said sending notes of condolence through the Presbyterian U.N. Office
will help strengthen the U.N. community, just as letters and prayers and
other offerings helped residents of New York City and Washington, DC, cope
with the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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