While terrorists flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center, theologian Miroslav Volf was only a few blocks away, speaking at the 16th Annual International Prayer Breakfast at the United Nations. Although family, friends, and coworkers tried to contact several of the attendees—which included 50 ambassadors and 150 others—neither he nor the other participants were told of the horrific events until the meeting was over. But his remarks on reconciliation are strikingly appropriate for the attack's aftermath. The following is his speech in full:
Mr. President, Mr. Minister, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen: It is indeed my honor to address you today on the day of the opening of a new session of the General Assembly. It is appropriate, in this place where you do such important and tireless work to resolve many of the conflicts that rage around our world, for us to come before God and ask for God's wisdom and God's guidance. It is also appropriate, I think, for the theme of my talk to be reconciliation. I thank you for your attention as I reflect on this theme.
Allow me to start by drawing your attention to the character of the world in which we live. I will not do so by quoting statistics about many dangers and sufferings in our world, statistics that you know better than I do; instead I will offer a meditative text written by a young Jewish poet immediately after World War II. It is a poem with unpredictable rhythms, a poem with grim metaphors, a poem with a startling combination of tenderness and brutality. Here is the first stanza.
Black milk of daybreak.
We drink it at evening.
We drink it at midday and morning.
We drink it at night.
We drink and we drink.
We shovel a grave in the air.
There you won't lie all too ...
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