Dear People and Friends of the Diocese of New Jersey,
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.—Isaiah 2:4
I recently heard from Fr. Alfred Niese, Rector of St. John-on-the-Mountain in Bernardsville from 1980–1998. We later spoke by phone. It was great to “meet him” if only in this way. Fr. Niese contacted me because he is a strong supporter of the work of the United Nations. He wanted me to know that this year United Nations Day is Sunday, October 24. He wrote to me, “falling as it does on a Sunday, [this] is a great opportunity for churches to draw attention to its mission—so profoundly consistent with ours.” I agree with him.
In a letter to Bishop Thomas Browne of Maine, which Fr. Niese shared with me, he suggests that churches “observe UN Day in sermons, prayers and continued personal acts of global citizenship.” Fr. Niese also provided some facts to undergird his case, noting the following work done by the United Nations:
- combats pandemics; coordinates COVID-19 vaccination efforts globally
- provides food and assistance to ninety-seven million people in eighty-eight countries
- supplies vaccines to 50% of the world’s children, helping save three million lives a year
- assists, protects 97.3 million people fleeing war, famine, and persecution
- works with 196 nations to keep the global temperature rise below 3.6 degrees (F)
- keeps peace with 90,000 peacekeepers in twelve operations around the world
- tackles the global water crisis affecting over 2.2 billion people
- protects and promotes human rights globally and through eighty treaties/declarations
- coordinates US $34 billion appeal for the humanitarian needs of 160 million people
- supports over thirty million women a year with sexual and reproductive health services
- uses diplomacy to prevent conflict and assists over fifty countries a year with their elections
According to the United Nations Association of the U.S.A. webpage dedicated to the observance of United Nations Day, this year’s theme is “Creating a Blueprint for a Better Future.” They observe, “Over the last year and a half, we’ve been reminded of just how interconnected the world is and that a threat anywhere—from the COVID-19 pandemic to intensifying impacts of climate change—is a threat everywhere,” and add, “The U.S. should not—and cannot—tackle global challenges alone.” It’s difficult to argue with this. The U.N. Association is offering a variety of ways we can all support the U.N.s vital work. Check out their page.
In his book, Pope Francis strikes a theme very similar to that of this year’s United Nations Day, writing, “This is a moment to think big, to rethink our priorities – what we value, what we want, what we seek – and to commit to act in our daily life on what we have dreamed of.” Pope Francis observes:
We need a movement of people who know we need each other, who have a sense of responsibility to others and to the world. We need to proclaim that being kind, having faith, and working for the common good are great life goals that need courage and vigor; while the glib superficiality and the mockery of ethics have done us no good. The modern era, which has developed equality and liberty with such determination, now needs to focus on fraternity with the same drive and tenacity to confront the challenges ahead (pp. 6–7).
One more note about Fr. Alfred Niece. He recently published a beautiful book for children young and old: Soren’s Story—A Parable About Bullies and the Peaceable Kingdom. The back cover of the book describes it well:
Soren is a rock dove—a city pigeon. He is befriended by two kind girls. Bullies, two boys who attack park pigeons as bad and dirty, strike down Soren’s wise friend Bright Wings, making enemies of the girls. Soren tells how the four children struggle to face each other, following the values of the peaceable kingdom and the dove of peace: forgiveness, love, truth, and fairness.
If you would like to know more, visit Fr. Niese’s website at www.AlfredNiese.com which includes a link to purchase the book as well as a Teacher’s Guide.
Jesus said, Blessed are the peacemakers; for they will be called children of God. I am grateful to Fr. Alfred Niese for his advocacy of the United Nations and its work; for reminding us of United Nations Day on October 24; and for his wonderful book on peace, Soren’s Story.
May God lead us all to be peacemakers.
Yours in Christ,
The Right Reverend William H. Stokes
12th Bishop of New Jersey
 Pope Francis and Austin Ivereigh Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2020) p. 6