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The Revd Peter Webb (1940–2022)

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23rd February 2022

We seem to hear little these days about the United Nations. At the height of the Cold War, it seems as if not a week went by without a report of some UN Security Council meeting or other – usually about resolutions vetoed. Still, the reports and the attention showed that most nations of the world accepted that there was a central authority.

During the Iraq War the United Nations played a vital part. Indeed Kofi Annan, the then UN General Secretary, declared the war illegal because it had violated the UN charter.

Since then, I perceive, the UN has been quietened – though its world-wide education, health, peace-keeping, social and climate change programmes continue to do huge amounts of good without generating many headlines.

Now that the world is entering a new extremely dangerous phase an institution with accepted global authority is, I think, needed more than ever – or else we only have the clashing interests of nation states and the authority of the most powerful. President Macron has just called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, so perhaps its importance is still recognised, by some at least…

World government has long been an object of fearful opposition for some Christians, as it becomes mixed up with biblical notions of the antichrist, the ‘mark of the beast’ and so on. Still, there is another, to my mind much more powerful, biblical idea to which the United Nations, at its best, gives expression, they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Michael Docker