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Terrorist attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad

20 August 2003

Letter to H.E. Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, 20 August, 2003

Dear Mr Secretary General,

The World Council of Churches is deeply shocked by the horrific terrorist attack
on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. The United Nations and its
related agencies, since the Gulf War in 1991, have served the common people of
Iraq with dedication, selfless devotion and commitment. This unprecedented and
wanton act of destruction of UN personnel and property is an indication of the
extent terrorists are prepared to go to in their malevolent designs to destroy civilized
norms and behaviour of society. It shows how urgent and important it is to
resolve differences and disputes through dialogue and peaceful means and to
address the root causes of discontent, hatred and violence.

The World Council of Churches strongly condemns such unwarranted and
unlawful acts that serve no acceptable purpose.

We mourn the loss of lives of the UN personnel who were in Baghdad to serve
the humanitarian needs of the people and work for restoration of the sovereignty
of the people of Iraq. We particularly grieve the untimely death of Mr Sergio
Vieira de Mello, an international civil servant of repute, who throughout his career
remained committed to resolving conflicts through peaceful means in order to
end the sufferings of the people in different regions of the world. He will be
remembered for his legacy as a nation builder and a great advocate of humanitar-
ian values. His words of 22nd July that the security of the United Nations' presence
"continues to rely significantly on the reputation of the United Nations, our
ability to demonstrate, meaningfully, that we are in Iraq to assist its people" need
to continue to guide the international community in its efforts to rebuild Iraq.
Mr Vieira de Mello was an old friend of the World Council of Churches. As an
intern, when he started his career in Geneva, he was a frequent visitor to the
Council. A few days before the 59th session of the United Nations Commission
on Human Rights he promised to renew his relations with the Council and visit
its headquarters in Geneva to address the staff.

We pray for the souls of those who have departed and for the quick recovery of
the injured. Please convey our condolences to the bereaved families and the staff
of the United Nations. We are also conscious of the fact that Mr Vieira de Mello
was a very close and trusted colleague for you and therefore offer our sincere sympathy
to you at this loss.

Assuring you of our prayers and support, the ecumenical family remains committed
to the objectives and work of the United Nations in these difficult times.

"Therefore my beloved brothers and sisters be steadfast, immovable always
abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain."
(I Cor. 15:58)

Respectfully yours,

Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser
General Secretary