The United Nations was founded in 1945 as a global association of governments that facilitates cooperation in international law, security, economic development, and social equality. With aims to protect human rights and achieve world peace, it is a center for governments to communicate and develop strategies to reach these ends. Since 1947, October 24 has been called United Nations Day to commemorate the anniversary of the UN’s creation. In 1971, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending that the day be observed as a public holiday by member states. For a brief and insightful history of United Nations Day and the UU@UN, check out "They called it UN Day" (PDF) by Frank B. Frederick, a UU lawyer who was involved with starting UN Day and with the UU@UN.
UUs at the UN
The history of Unitarian Universalist involvement in the United Nations dates back to its very beginnings. Along with a number of other Unitarian volunteers, Elvira Fradkin was present in San Francisco at the founding of the United Nations on October 24, 1945. Fradkin went on to be a strong supporter active throughout the UN system, including serving as the UN representative for the American Unitarian Association.
The Unitarian Universalist Office at the UN was created in 1962 at the recommendation of the U.S. Ambassador to the UN at the time and a Unitarian, Adlai Stevenson. From leading the faith caucus to establish the International Criminal Court, to overcoming UN apathy about sexual orientation & gender identity issues, the UU@UN has a long history of providing strong leadership in all aspects of human rights at a policy level through UN consultative status. Read more about the history of the UU@UN and how the UU Office works at the UN.
In UU Congregations
In celebration of UN Day, the Unitarian Universalist Office at the UN invites congregations and individual UUs to engage with the story of our global Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist faith by deepening their understanding of the United Nations and devoting one service in October to reaffirming the connections between our UU principles and the vital issues dealt with at the UN. Usually, congregations organize a UN Sunday for the Sunday closest to UN Day, but any Sunday is better than no Sunday at all. The theme for the UN Sunday service follows the theme for that year’s UU@UN Intergenerational Spring Seminar; this year’s theme is All In for Climate Justice: People, Power, Planet. In your service, we invite you to focus on centering the people most at risk, shifting power away from polluters and destroyers, and protecting the planet for a sustainable future, which is the focus of this packet.
UN Sunday is a unique opportunity to engage the congregation in action following the worship service. Beyond reflecting and talking about the issues at stake during worship, it’s valuable to harness that passion by organizing an action station or event for congregants to undertake that afternoon or week. We suggest collaborating with another faith or interfaith group as part of the action portion of your UN Sunday celebration. Suggestions for potential actions to take are in the “Local Action for UN Sunday” section.
We encourage ministers, lay leaders, and youth and adult Envoys to take advantage of our prepared materials and/or to develop their own ideas for a UN Sunday service. Consider enlisting a UU@UN Envoy or a special UN speaker to present the sermon. We especially encourage a multigenerational service, including children, youth, young adults, adults, and seniors working together in the preparation and execution of UN Sunday. Further, we urge congregations to organize related religious education sessions. Our UN Religious Education curriculum (UN Me) is available online.
2020 Special Anniversary: UN75
In 2020 the United Nations is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Since the UN was created at the end of World War II, our planet has seen progress in development and in respect for human rights. Yet the world envisioned in the UN Charter – where all people of the world “practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours” – is still far from being realized. The UN75 campaign to mark this anniversary and set the UN agenda for the coming years recognizes this unique moment:
The UN is inviting contributions to a global conversation about the future of the United Nations and the future of our world. Small discussions can be held in classrooms, boardrooms, and churches! The Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations urges UU congregations to use United Nations Sunday as an opportunity to hold such a discussion. Find the UN75 Global Dialogue Toolkit here.
We also encourage you to share the film "Nations United: Urgent Solutions for Urgent Times" with your congregation. "Nations United" is a special, first of its kind film, created by the United Nations on its 75th Anniversary and to mark five years since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. In the midst of a pandemic radically transforming our world, Nations United tells the story of the world as it is, as it was, and as it could be. It focuses on the solutions and action we need to tackle poverty, inequality, injustice and climate change.