As the world mourns the passing of former United Nations Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) offers his thoughts on the former leader’s recent passing.
In a statement released today, the Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II described Pérez de Cuéllar as a “man of peace” who brokered numerous peace agreements and helped bring the U.S. and Soviet Union together to discuss their differences. Citing the former leader’s example, Nelson said people of faith must face political polarization in the U.S. and speak out for those who can’t speak for themselves.
“As we take that risk, we may be motivated by the courage demonstrated by Mr. Pérez de Cuéllar against great odds, remembering, at the same time, that our strongest motivation and our greatest hope is not in such earthly leaders, but in our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace and the true hope of all humanity,” Nelson stated.
Pérez de Cuéllar died on March 4 at the age of 100. He served as the UN’s fifth Secretary-General from 1982 to 1991. In addition to a series of diplomatic roles, he also served as Peru’s prime minister and minister of foreign affairs.
Read the Stated Clerk’s full statement below:
The Death of Javier Pérez de Cuéllar at 100 Years
We face a world troubled by ideological clashes and national leaders whose personal arrogance has exacerbated the plight of the poor and the disenfranchised. In that context it is appropriate for us to mark and give thanks for the life and witness of a man of peace, UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar.
A Peruvian by birth, Mr. Pérez de Cuéllar’s first diplomatic posting was in 1941 as a secretary in the Peruvian embassy in Paris, from which he became ambassador to France. In January 1982, he was chosen, after a six-week deadlock among UN members, as Secretary-General of the United Nations. In the eyes of most, he was a “compromise” candidate who would at least do no harm.
To the surprise of many, he took on his new responsibility with vigor, remarking that “The problem with the United Nations is that either it is not used or misused by member countries.”
With quiet vigor Pérez de Cuéllar brokered a number of peace agreements, including the end of the Iran/Iraq war and a diplomatic resolution to conflicts in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Cambodia. He was even able to bring the United States and the Soviet Union to the table to address their differences.
As people of faith we must we face the political polarization in our own country and speak out for the poor and the weak. As residents of the richest nation in the world, whose leaders continue to enact policies and programs that further enrich the wealthy and powerful and place the vulnerable in greater jeopardy, we must place our faith and our energy “on the line.” As we take that risk, we may be motivated by the courage demonstrated by Mr. Pérez de Cuéllar against great odds, remembering, at the same time, that our strongest motivation and our greatest hope is not in such earthly leaders, but in our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, and the true hope of all humanity.