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Archbishop of Canterbury addresses UN Security Council

Archbishop of Canterbury addresses UN Security Council

Archbishop Welby at the Conference of European Churches assembly in May 2018. Photo: Albin Hillert/CEC/WCC

06 September 2018

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby briefed the UN Security Council in New York on 29 August on the subject of mediation and conflict resolution.

Welby, who has made reconciliation one of his personal priorities for his ministry, was making his first speech to the Security Council. He sits on the UN secretary general's High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation.

His remarks opened a debate entitled “Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Mediation and the Peaceful Resolution of Conflicts.”

“The church and other faith communities are intimately present where there are conflicts,” Welby said. “We cannot and will not walk away from them.”

We need to complement mediation – in fact the whole conflict cycle – within the framework of reconciliation, Welby explained. “The vision of the UN’s founders was no less than to abolish conflict. We have avoided global, nuclear war, yet not its continuing menace.”

Short-term advantage for one interest leads to long-term destruction for all, through great wars and through small conflicts, he added.

“Reconciliation is not an act that comes at the end of the conflict cycle,” he said. “It must become the framework that enables us to sustain peace and avoid conflict cycles repeating with ever-increasing destructive force.”

He further asked if approaches to reconciliation are currently adequate, especially using local, religious and traditional sources of peacemaking. “Even in this time of uncertainty, and renewed international rivalry, for the sake of future peace we must invest in reconciliation and learn how to support transformation in human relationships better,” he said. “The role that an institution like the church plays here is significant.”

Religious institutions are often the only functioning institution in a fragile or pre-conflict situation. “They are present before, during and after conflict,” he said. “They provide early warning for signs of conflict in communities.”

Large tracts of territory around the world are violently contested, in situations where government has failed, he concluded. “As we think about new and innovative approaches to conflict prevention, this is an example of how the UN, member states and faith actors can be allies, with the potential for transformational results.”

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