On March 23, 2020, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a global ceasefire because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war…That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world. It is time to put the armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.” Many nations responded while others did not. Not unlike the Olympic Truce, called for every two years before the Olympic Games, this ceasefire is necessary and hopeful for our world, but war and war business keep leaders fighting.
During this time, the United States of America, a global leader in confirmed cases and deaths due to COVID 19, also stepped back from treaty obligations to end the use of land mines. While the US government says that it will abide by international law in its use or proposed use of landmines, to reduce civilian harm, our government has concluded that war and destruction are more important than people.
The global ceasefire and the global community don’t often get a lot of press in the United States of America. Unless we are attacked or attacking somewhere, the US position in the world often rests in the lie that the United States of America is a global leader, the world’s policeperson, or protector.
While the world has been combatting COVID 19, the United States of America has quietly been exiting existing peaceful agreements. During this time, the United States of America has communicated that it is not against the use of landmines for military purposes as well as exiting part of the Arms Trade Treaty. While our citizens are dying of disease, the administration is rolling back commitments to save lives in other ways.
The administration is making international cooperation harder and harder at a time of the global pandemic. Cuts to food aid, medical care, children, and refugees have all been part of the work of this administration. Cuts to the entire United Nations system have left people hungry, have weakened responses to conflicts or potential conflicts, and have done unspeakable damages worldwide.
Now is a time where we as Christians need to come together. In the Apostle’s Creed, we believe in one catholic church and the communion of saints. Undoubtedly, during a pandemic, we must hold fast to these beliefs, one catholic church, and understanding that all people are welcome, that the table is large. Now is a time for global governments to represent their people and come together. The anguish of a mother in Venezuela is not so distant from the anguish of a mother in New York City. Rather than creating our own rules, let us encourage our government to sit at the world table.
The United Nations is not a perfect system. There are no perfect systems, but it is the system that we have. It is the system that serves as the world’s table. Be it ceasefire, hunger, housing, or hospitals, the global community is best served when working together.
Ryan D. Smith is the Director & Representative to the United Nations of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations.