Mother Teresa address the United Nations

Mother Teresa visits the United Nations on the occasion of its 40th Anniversary


General Assembly Hall
26 October 1985

[Based on the un-edited UNTV video footage.
Verbatim transcript by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations,
New York, January 14, 2004.]

Introduction by Secretary General Pérez de Cuéllar:

This is a hall of words. A few days ago we had, in this rostrum, the most powerful men in the world. Now we have the privilege to have the most powerful woman in the world. I don’t think I need to present her. She doesn’t need words. She does need deeds. I think that the best thing I can do is to pay tribute to her and to tell that she is much more than I, much more than all of us. She is the United Nations. She is peace in this world.
Thank you.

Mother Teresa:

We have gathered together to thank God for the 40 years of the beautiful work that the United Nations have put in for the good of the people, and as we begin the year of peace, let us say the prayer, you have all got one, we say the prayer together for peace. For works of love are works of peace. We say it together so that we may obtain peace and God can give us peace, by uniting us together.

Make us worthy Lord to serve our fellow men throughout the world,
who live and die in poverty and hunger.
Give them through our hands, this day, their daily bread
and by our understanding love give peace and joy.

Lord, make me a channel of thy peace.
That where there is hatred I may bring love,
That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness,
That where there is discord, I may bring harmony,
That where there is error I may bring truth,
That where there is doubt I may bring faith,
That where there is despair I may bring hope,
That where there are shadows I may bring light,
That where there is sadness I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort that to be comforted,
To understand than to be understood,
To love than to be loved.
For it is by forgetting self that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven,
it is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.

We have asked our Lord to make us channels of peace, of joy, of love, of unity, and this is why Jesus came: to prove that love. God loved the world so much that he gave Jesus his son to come among us, to give us that good news, that God loves us. And that he wants us to love one another as he loves each one of us. That he has created us for that one reason: to love and to be loved. No other reason. We are not just a number in the world. We are children of God.

Last time I was in China they asked me “what is a communist to you?” I said “a child of God, my brother my sister.” And exactly that is what you and I are meant to be: brother, sister. Because the same loving hand of God has created you, created me, created man of the street, created that leper, that hungry man, that rich man, for that same purpose: to love and to be loved. And this is what you and I have come together today to find the means of peace.

How does peace come? Through works of love. Where does it begin? At home. How does it begin? By praying together. For family that prays together stays together. And if you stay together, you will love one another as God loves each one of you. For Prayer gives a clean heart and a clean heart can see God. And if you see God in each other, if we have the joy of seeing God in each other, we will love one another. That’s why no colour, no religion, no nationality should come between us. For we are all the same children of the same loving hand of God, created for greater things: to love and to be loved. Only we must experience that joy of loving.

I never forget, some time back, two young people came to our house and they gave me lots of money. And I asked them “where did you get so much money?” And they said “two days ago we got married. Before marriage, we decided we will not buy wedding clothes. We will not have wedding feast. We will give you that money.” And I know that in our country, in a Hindu family, what that means, not to have wedding clothes, not to have a wedding feast. So again I asked, “but why? Why did you do like that?” And they said “we loved each other so much that we wanted to share the joy of loving with the people you serve.” How do we experience the joy of loving? How do we experience that? By giving until it hurts.

When I was going to Ethiopia, little children came to me. They heard I was going there. And they came. They had come to know from the sisters how much the children are suffering in Ethiopia. And they came and each one gave something, very, very small money. And some, whatever they had, they gave. And a little boy came to me and said “I have nothing, I have no money, I have nothing. But I have this piece of chocolate. And you give that, take that with you and you give it to the children in Ethiopia.” That little child loved with great love, because I think that was the first time that he had a piece of chocolate in his hand. And he gave it. He gave it with joy to be able to share, to remove a little the suffering of someone in far Ethiopia. This is the joy of loving: to give until it hurts. It hurt Jesus to love us, for he died on the cross, to teach us how to love. And this is the way we too must love: until it hurts.

We have many beautiful people; you have seen in the pictures, our poor people, our great people. I have been with them for so many years and I have never yet heard a complaint. Some days back, I picked up a man from the streets, eaten up alive with worms. I took him to our home. And what did this man say? “I lived like an animal in the streets, but I will die like an angel. Loved, and cared.” It took us three hours to clean him, to remove every bit of those worms that were eating him alive. And not a word from him. And just before, while we were still praying with him, praying for him, he looked up at sister and said “Sister, I am going home to God.” And he died. There was such a wonderful, beautiful smile on his face. He went home to God. I’ve never seen a smile like that. And yet there was this man, eaten alive, no complaint, no cursing, and just “I am going home to God.” And what a beautiful way of going home to God. With a clean heart, with a pure heart, filled with joy. Filled with that tenderness and love that he received from the sisters who looked after him.

Yes, this is what you and I, today, if we really stand for why we have come here today, to begin that year of peace, we must begin at home, we must begin in our own family. Works of love begin at home and works of love are works of peace. We all want peace, and yet, and yet we are frightened of nuclears, we are frightened of this new disease. But we are not afraid to kill an innocent child, that little unborn child, who has been created for that same purpose: to love God and to love you and me.

This is what is such a contradiction, and today I feel that abortion has become the greatest destroyer of peace. We are afraid of the nuclears, because it is touching us, but we are not afraid, the mother is not afraid to commit that terrible murder. Even when God Himself speaks of that, He says “even if mother could forget her child, I will not forget you. I have carved you on the palm of my hand, you are precious to me, I love you.” These are God’s own words to you, to me, to that little unborn child. And this is why if we really want peace, if we are sincere in our hearts that we really want peace, today, let us make that strong resolution that in our countries, in our cities, we will not allow a single child to feel unwanted, to feel unloved, to throw away a society. And let us help each other to strengthen that. That in our countries that terrible law of killing the innocents, of destroying life, destroying the presence of God, be removed from our country, from our nation, from our people, from our families.

And so that today, when we are praying, let us bring again and again prayer in our life. For prayer will give us strength. Prayer is something that will help us to see God in each other, to help us to love one another as He loves each one of us. This is something that you and I must bring to the world. The whole world is looking up at you. You have gathered here, from all the nations to find the ways and means of peace. For sure, works of love are works of peace, and they begin in our family. Much suffering, much destruction has come from the home, from the family. By destroying the unborn child, we are destroying the presence of God. We have destroyed love. We have destroyed the most sacred thing that a human being can have: the joy of loving and joy of being loved.

And so today, when we have gathered here together, let us carry in our hearts one strong resolution: I will love. I will be a carrier of God’s love. For that is what Jesus came to teach us: How to love one another. And to bring Him to love at home, in our own family, in our own... to those that are unwanted. Maybe in our own family we have the lowly.

We all speak of the terrible hunger. What I have seen in Ethiopia, what I have seen in other places, especially these days in terrible places like Ethiopia, but the people in hundreds and thousands are facing death just for a piece of bread, for a glass of water. People have died in my own hands. And yet we forget, why they and not we? Let us love again, so let us share, let us pray that this terrible suffering be removed from our people. Let us share with them the joy of loving, and where does love begin? Again I say in our family, in our home. Let us bring love, peace and joy through prayer. Let us bring prayer, pray together, for prayer will give you a clean heart. I will pray for you that you may grow in this love of God, by loving one another as He loves each one of you, and especially that through this love, you become holy. Holiness is not a luxury of the few. It’s a simple duty for each one of us. For holiness brings love, and love brings peace, and peace brings us together.

And let us not be afraid for God is with us if we allow Him, if we give Him the joy of a pure heart. Let us pray, let us pray for each other. And you pray for us also, that we may continue God’s work with great love.

You have seen those young sisters, consecrating their lives totally to the service of the poorest of the poor. These young sisters take care of 158,000 lepers, in the Middle East, in Africa and India, and so much joy, new life has come into their lives. Why? Because there is somebody who loves them, somebody who wants them, somebody who will give them tender love and care. I was asked the other day, “What are you going to do in this place? We have everything. The government gives us everything. What will you do here?” I only said “I will give tender love and care.” No money can give that. So you and I, let us begin with that tender love and care in our own home. For this is what we have been created for. This is what Jesus came to teach us, to love one another as He loves each one of us. We have many poor people around the world, but I find that the poverty of loneliness, the poverty of being unwanted unloved, uncared, just left, a throwaway of society, is a very difficult and very, very burdensome poverty, very difficult to remove.

I have picked up from the streets hungry people, and by giving them to eat, by giving them a bed to sleep, I have removed the suffering, but for the lonely, the shut-ins, the unwanted, it’s not so easy. And so there you and I must come forward, and share the joy of loving, but we cannot give what we don’t have. That’s why we need to pray. And prayer will give us a clean heart, and a clean heart will allow us to see God in each other. And if we see God in each other, we will be able to live in peace and if we live in peace, we will be able to share the joy of loving with each other and God will be with us.

God bless you.
Mother Teresa