February 17, 2016

Adventist Church’s UN Liaison Pays Tribute to Late UN Leader

The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s liaison to the United Nations praised former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who died Tuesday, as “an eloquent spokesperson for tolerance” who understood the challenges faced by religious minorities.

Boutros-Ghali, an Egyptian national who led the United Nations from January 1992 to December 1996, died in a Cairo hospital after being admitted with a broken pelvis. He was 93.

“I was saddened to learn today of the death of former United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali,” Nelu Burcea, UN liaison for the Seventh-day Adventist world church, said in an e-mailed statement. “He was an eloquent spokesperson for tolerance and human rights, and a man whose life was defined by the pursuit of a more just and more peaceful world.”

Burcea noted that Boutros-Ghali was a Coptic Christian who lived and worked many years in his Islamic homeland. Boutros-Ghali worked as a professor of international law and international relations at Cairo University from 1949 to 1979. He later served as Egypt’s vice foreign minister.

“Dr. Boutros-Ghali knew first-hand the challenges faced by many religious minorities around the world,” Burcea said. “This experience added an extra depth and authority to his efforts in promoting human rights.”

Several world crises unfolded on Boutros-Ghali’s watch at the UN, including the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Rwandan genocide.

“His tenure at the United Nations, during the turbulent post-Cold War years, was made even more challenging by the shifting alliances and the changing power dynamics of a newly fragmented international community,” Burcea said. “But regardless of the many and varied critiques of his five-year term as secretary-general, I believe Dr. Boutros-Ghali was driven by a desire for the United Nations to be, in his own words, ‘a voice for the weakest and least regarded peoples.’”

The UN Security Council observed a moment of silence Tuesday for Boutros-Ghali, the first African to lead the UN.

Burcea recalled that Boutros-Ghali wrote in his 1999 book Unvanquished, “In a world of many big and wealthy powers, it is the United Nation’s job to look out for those marginalized because of ethnicity, gender, religion, age, health, poverty or whatever reason.”

“And these few, simple words may well provide us the best and clearest insight into Dr. Boutros-Ghali's philosophy as an international diplomat,” Burcea said.

“On behalf of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the church’s public affairs and religious liberty department, I extend my deepest sympathies to Mrs. Boutros-Ghali, to their extended family, and to the United Nations community, which has lost an eminent and influential leader,” he said.