As the United Nations celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in October, voices of protest and complaint were attempting to drown out praise for the body's many achievements.

For those of us who spend time in the developing world, those achievements are evident: coordination of campaigns that resulted in the eradication of smallpox and a halving of the child death rate; care for 31 million refugees since 1951; facilitating humanitarian aid where there is violent civil disorder or no government.


Like all human institutions, the United Nations has its flaws: financial waste and even occasional fraud, a bloated bureaucracy, coordination problems within and without its many agencies, and susceptibility to political manipulation.

Given the United Nations' diverse membership and sometimes confusing mandate, such problems are not surprising. But how, through the United Nations, can 185 countries build a safer, more humane, and peaceful world?

Conflicts among nations are similar to problems among people and complicated by many of the same issues: rich versus poor, alienation versus cooperation, community versus competition. On the global scale, nationalism, economic inequality, human-rights abuses, and misuse of natural resources make the United Nations' tasks next to impossible.

Christians can find common ground with the United Nations in supporting the best of what this world body does. Without the United Nations, who could provide the essential services coordinated by the World Health Organization, the UN Children's Fund, and its other associated agencies? Would Christian organizations have to abandon their community-development efforts to fill gaps in essential services? Would international disagreements ...

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