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Kofi Annan, peacemaker

To reflect on the life of Kofi Annan, and then look for situations where we can be peacemakers.

by James Lamont

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To reflect on the life of Kofi Annan, and then look for situations where we can be peacemakers.

Preparation and materials

  • Prepare two readers for the main section of the Assembly. You may need to update the facts in the recent history section.

Assembly

  1. Reader 1: It is 22nd January 2008. Kenya has been in turmoil for over three weeks, since the President, Mwai Kibaki, was declared winner of the presidential election on 30th December. Members of the main opposition party, led by the charismatic Raila Odinga, have accused the president of stealing the election.

    The result has been an explosion of sectarian violence, as groups loyal to either side turn on each other and on the tribes they view as loyal to the other side. On 1st January, 30 people were burned to death as they sought refuge in a church. In total, up to 1,000 people have been killed and 250,000 forced to leave their homes in the ongoing violence.

    The aeroplane is landing now. On this plane is a senior global figure whom many see as the best hope to reach a peaceful settlement. You greet him with the respect that is awarded to a man who has served two terms as Secretary-General of the United Nations, the spokesperson of the world’s foremost authority on human rights, international relations and global justice. Kofi Annan is a distinguished man, who has devoted his life to the search for peace and prosperity.
  2. Reader 2: He tells you of his childhood, born into privilege in Ghana on 8th August 1938. In 1957, the year Annan graduated, Ghana became the first British colony in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence. He joined the UN in 1962 as a budget officer for the World Health Organization.

    Working his way up the ladder, he worked for a year as Assistant Secretary-General of Peacekeeping Operations between 1993 and 1994. During this time, the UN was criticized for its failure to act as genocide erupted in Rwanda. Emerging from civil war, ethnic conflict began in Rwanda, with the shooting down of the President’s plane acting as a catalyst for the killings of at least half a million people. The UN failed to act in this case until it was too late and Annan faced strong criticism.

    Despite this, Annan was elected Secretary-General of the United Nations on 1st January 1997. He describes his commitment to aiding the world’s poor, particularly by hindering the spread of HIV/AIDS. He describes it to you as a ‘personal priority’ and talks of his delight at the founding of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, which was created at the 2001 G8 Summit of the leaders of the world’s most prosperous nations. As of June 2007, the Fund claims to have been instrumental in saving the lives of 1.9 million people across 136 nations worldwide.
  3. Reader 1: Kofi Annan won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. The judges said: ‘The only negotiable road to global peace and co-operation goes by way of the United Nations. Mr Annan has been pre-eminent in bringing new life to the organisation.’ This is the view of many: Annan is seen as having played a vital part in the renewal and modernization of the organization that dates back to 1947.

    Important to this is the policy of intervention that he pursued, requiring the UN to intervene to stop genocides and massacres. While this policy has yet to be successfully implemented, the principle itself may well become an important legacy of the seventh Secretary-General.
  4. Reader 2: Annan stood down as Secretary-General on 31st December 2006. In his farewell speech, he outlined three major problems: ‘an unjust world economy, world disorder, and widespread contempt for human rights and the rule of law’, which he believes were ‘not resolved, but sharpened’ during his time as Secretary-General. These three problems characterize his premiership: an emphasis on aiding the needy, especially the oppressed, and halting the spread of lethal diseases with available cures.

    As you talk, you recognize the importance of such issues. The people of Kenya have not been forgotten by the international community. In times of great hardship, there is always the possibility of others offering hope and strength.

Time for reflection

Kofi Annan has spent his life trying to bring peace and justice to the world.

Where could I bring peace today?

Where could I stand for justice?

Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.’ (Matthew 5.9)

You might like to use these words, attributed to St Francis of Assisi, as a prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
not so much to be understood as to understand,
not so much to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying that we awake to eternal life.

Hymn

‘Make me a channel of your peace‘ (Come and Praise, 147)

Publication date: April 2008   (Vol.10 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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