I refer to the new Secretary General of the United Nations, AntÏŒnio Guterres, who, in the opinion of Angelique Chrisafis and Julian Borger in The Guardian, is â€œperhaps better qualified than any of his nine predecessors for the worldâ€™s most demanding job.â€ That is quite a claim when among the nine was Dag Hammarskjold whose peace efforts in the Congo were so intense they cost him his life. Last week I visited the site, near Ndola, where his plane came down in mysterious circumstances in 1961. So what makes these writers so enthusiastic about the new Secretary General?
When Guterres resigned as Prime Minister of Portugal in 2002 he went to the slum areas of Lisbon and gave free tuition in maths to poor children. And, significantly, he would not allow journalists or photographers to go with him. Later he was UN High Commissioner for refugees and, on a visit to Lebanon, was seen sitting â€œcross legged on the floor of a tent talking to children. He really listens and he asks questions and heâ€™s very moved by what he hears.â€
Guterres, 67, grew up under the dictatorship and after the revolution in 1974 emerged as a leading socialist whose driving force was his progressive Catholic faith. He became a â€œfearsome orator with an ability to verbally destroy his opponents â€¦ and became known as a talking pickaxe.â€ At the same time he was quick to understand other points of view and build consensus.
His first wife, a psychiatrist, was critically ill and receiving treatment in London while he was in government and each week-end he flew to the UK to be with her. He said she taught him that, â€œwhen two people are together, they are not two but six. What each one is, what each one thinks he or she is, and what each one thinks the other is.â€ And what is true of individuals is true of countries, he says, â€œone of the roles of the secretary general is to bring these six into two so that misunderstandings and false perceptions disappear. Perceptions are essential in politics.â€
â€œYour light will shine like the dawn â€¦your integrity will go before youâ€ (Isaiah 58). There are some great public men and women to whom these words apply.
5 February 2017Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Sunday 5 A
Isaiah 58:7-10Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1 Corinthians 2:1-5Â Â Â Â Matthew 5:13-16Post published in: Featured