The Value of the United Nations

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I carried my disdain for the United Nations from my early Christian years with me for a long time. I would rather invest my hopes in a “Christian America.” When we look at the Medieval Crusades for Jerusalem, we see what can become of misplacing our hopes in this way. The disservice these Crusades did to the cause of Christ in the world was immeasurable. Christ plainly taught us to put our hope in him, by living justly towards our neighbours, not by conquering them, even bearing or own cross instead. This is the hope we have, as Peter explained, for which we are prepared to suffer without retaliation, rather than bring suffering to others.

The narrative I believed in was that the corruption of the United Nations invalidated it. The claim that it was ineffective in disarming Saddam Hussein is now in doubt. The same with its apparent failure to tame Muammar Gaddafi. We now know there may have been other global pollical issues at play as well. If the United Nations can work in with the collective will of the nations, then it can achieve most of the goals for peace we wish for. But the break down of this collective purpose can be as much due to the exercising of our own special interests as those of other nations.

Why hasn’t the United Nations banned illegal deposits made from underdeveloped nations into Western banks, or demanded their return? Why hasn’t the United Nations curtailed powerful corporations from taking advantage of resources in underdeveloped nations, impoverishing millions of people. There are many such ways in which the United Nations has been crippled from doing good, and these also need to be in any conversations about the corruption.

The greatest challenge of setting up the United Nations is when after doing so, and carefully announcing its lofty aims, that we don’t honour these in reality, but behind the scenes seek our own will and advantage. This is something we are all prone to, and which takes the greatest pains and will to avoid for the good of the original program.

And if we don’t tackle our duplicity in our political aims, we may contribute to the undermining of the esprit de corps within the organisation. We speak of increased corruption, but could this be in part due to the frustrations in our relationships? If it is plain that the powerful countries use the organisation for their own will, then wouldn’t people justify helping themselves the same way within the organisation? That is, a program to inhibit corruption within this United Nations, which is a vital thing to achieve, involves the straight-talking of us all. Overcoming corruption is very important and requires our concerted and continual effort. Throwing the cause of the United Nations away is no answer to the problem of corruption.

I also believed that the purposes of justice for the world can’t be achieved by the United Nations, but only by the gospel renewing our hearts. This is very true, but the world won’t see our renewed hearts, unless it sees our renewed lives, in which we reach out to the poor of the world. This doesn’t mean that our hope is in institutions like the United Nations. It means our hope remains in the model of the church, in which we lay down our lives for each other and for the stranger, and this model informs the kinds of governments this world builds. If the world sees a self-giving church, it will build that model into its institutions. Such institutions will seek to serve the interests of all, not just our own interests.

It wasn’t until I left my zones where the United Nations wasn’t needed and landed in places where it made a huge impact for good in people’s lives, an impact that would make it detrimental if the United Nations was taken away, that I realised the value of the organisation. This doesn’t mean it is without fault, but that it is now seen as something worth influencing for the good, especially when you see the number of Christians, Muslims and other Godfearers who work in it, dedicating their lives to serve others in genuine love and care.

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