United Nations Day is Friday, October 24. When Jesus instructed the disciples to heal the sick, welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, serve the poor and proclaim good news to the captives and the oppressed, it was well before the ratification of the United Nations Charter on October 24, 1945. And yet, being present at the United Nations and cooperating with UN agencies is one way in which 2 million Episcopalians in 17 countries live more fully into our Baptismal Covenant to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves” and “strive for justice and peace among all people.”
So how, exactly, do Episcopalians live this out? The Episcopal Church has a long-standing ministry and presence at the UN, both as a member province of the Anglican Communion and independently.
Along with Anglican brothers and sisters, Episcopalians – volunteers and staff, lay and ordained – attend events at the UN, participate in working groups on issues such as human trafficking and annual gatherings such as the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Episcopalians in parishes and dioceses worldwide inform, educate, raise awareness and develop programs on global issues treated at the UN. These issues include: working toward peace and reconciliation; supporting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Post-2015 Development Agenda; reversing climate change and protecting the environment; ensuring food security; protecting human rights; empowering women and girls; and supporting the rights and dignity of indigenous peoples, their lands and cultures.
Episcopalians organize workshops, talks and marches on UN-related themes, view UN events via webcasts, contribute funds to relief and humanitarian agencies that work with UN agencies such as the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme and UNICEF. They work with Episcopal Migration Ministries to resettle refugees in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They advocate locally and at the federal level on issues of importance to them, which are also debated in a global context at the United Nations. Episcopalians commemorate UN Observances and special days in congregations and dioceses, such as World Refugee Day, International Day of the Girl Child and Human Rights Day.
2014 has been a landmark year for the ministries of the Episcopal Church at and with the United Nations. The Episcopal Church was recognized in January at the United Nations for its “noble work” and many ministries that contribute to the work of the UN and its agencies – a recognition that was affirmed in Executive Council’s resolution WM 019 in February.
This year the Episcopal Church was also granted “special consultative status” with the Economic and Social Council, one of six UN main bodies and by which faith-based and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) officially associate with the UN.
“Think of this as an upgrade from economy to business class on the UN airplane”, explained Lynnaia Main, the Episcopal Church’s Global Relations officer and liaison to the United Nations. “It will allow the church, for the very first time, to send official delegates to major UN annual commissions and submit written and oral statements reflecting the church’s positions on issues being debated at the UN.”
To learn more about the Episcopal Church’s role with the United Nations or get your parish, diocese or seminary involved, please contact Lynnaia Main, firstname.lastname@example.org.