A senior United Nations official visited the Seventh-day Adventist world church headquarters to learn more about the church, meet church leaders, and to discuss current humanitarian issues.
Ambassador Iqbal Riza, special aide to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, shared his perspective on the world’s most pressing geopolitical and economic challenges at a lunch gathering of Adventist leaders from the United States and countries in Africa, Europe, and South and Central America.
“The world is at a stage today when the enmities of the past have not completely disappeared and new enmities have appeared,” Riza said.
He spoke about the “larger part of humanity that lives, perhaps not in subhuman conditions, but certainly in dire poverty.”
In describing the goals of the United Nations, Riza quoted the so-called “four freedoms” first expressed by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941: Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
Riza said religious institutions could do much to “improve the lives of the deprived, poor, disadvantaged, dispossessed.” But, he added: “No one can do it all. Each must do it in their own way, to the extent of their own capacities.”
He noted especially the Adventist Church’s emphasis on health and education, saying that education is absolutely crucial in opening minds and allowing people to live fuller, more meaningful lives.
Riza also expressed appreciation for the multi-cultural environment of the Adventist world church headquarters, where workers represent more than 100 nationalities and ethnicities.
In response, Adventist Church president Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson said Adventists are “are dedicated to serving humanity in every way that Jesus did — physically, mentally, socially, and spirituality.”
He thanked the Riza for visiting the church headquarters and for his willingness to discuss issues of common concern.
“We hope as you have opportunity to interface with Adventists you will better understand our perspective: that we are here to honor God and to serve our fellow human beings,” Wilson said.
Wilson first met Riza in April during a visit with UN Secretary-General Ban at the United Nations headquarters in New York. That meeting was the first between an Adventist Church president and a UN secretary-general. Riza’s visit to the Adventist headquarters followed an invitation extended by Ganoune Diop, director of the church’s public affairs and religious liberty department.
Diop, a former Adventist Church representative to the United Nations, said he was pleased that Riza could visit last week.
“I believe it’s important we continue building positive relationships with the UN and others within the international community whose goals overlap with ours,” he said.
Diop wrote an article about why the Adventist Church participates in UN meetings that was published in the Adventist Review online last week.
Riza has worked at the United Nations for more than 35 years, holding the positions of chief of staff to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, assistant secretary-general for UN peacekeeping operations, chief of the UN mission in Bosinia and Herzegovina, and director of the division for political and general assembly affairs. Prior to joining the UN in 1977, Riza spent 19 years in the foreign service of his home country, Pakistan.