The Salvation Army and the United Nations-Being Good Neighbors

By Bailey, Carolyn J. R. | Cross Currents, September 2010 | Go to article overview

The Salvation Army and the United Nations-Being Good Neighbors


Bailey, Carolyn J. R., Cross Currents


The United Nations signed its charter in 1945, at the end of World War II. It said, in part, that those involved with the United Nations "determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime brought untold sorrow to mankind." The Salvation Army was one of the original twelve NGOs, which became involved with the United Nations in 1947. It was a natural connection for The Salvation Army as an international movement. The Salvation Army had gone to war with the troops, meeting their needs at the front lines; it was active in various war-torn countries as responders to need; it had a history of quick responses and was known for being able to mobilize easily and well. From 1947 to the present, the length of involvement alone indicates sympathy of purpose.

In 2007, however, to further develop The Salvation Army's connection with the United Nations and to "prioritize the Army's involvement in international law, security, economic development, social progress, human rights and the achievement of world peace"--all areas in which the United Nations is active, General Shaw Clifton, the international head of The Salvation Army, opened the International Social Justice Commission (ISJC) in New York (Caring, p. 8). This makes it very clear that The Salvation Army understands its purposes, and the purposes of the United Nations are more than compatible and the relationship between the two groups is healthy and worth cultivating. Sympathetic and compatible, however, do not mean identical. In the next few pages, we will examine this relationship, what drives it and how it works. We will explore the various mandates involved--human, Christ's example, Scriptural, historical, and theological. We will also discuss the balance between the spiritual and the social work of The Salvation Army, which is always at the center of its own work and its work with other organizations.

Driven by the human mandate-being good neighbors

On the morning of December 26, 2004, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, the most powerful in forty years, hit under the Indian Ocean, causing a tsunami, which killed tens of thousands of people in eleven countries and left untold damage in its wake. The Salvation Army was active in several of those countries, including Sri Lanka and India. In India, local Salvation Army officers (ministers) and soldiers (members) went to the areas of greatest damage, although those areas were outside their usual circle of influence. When The Salvation Army first arrived, the people in the community did not immediately embrace them. They were strangers from a different part of the country and from a different faith. But The Salvation Army had come to help its neighbors. In the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, The Salvation Army provided food, clothing, and temporary shelter. As time passed, The Salvation Army provided medical care and helped to rebuild homes. Most importantly, the people from The Salvation Army sat and listened to people's stories and helped them process their grief. When some other relief groups left, The Salvation Army stayed. Only then did the people trust that The Salvation Army really cared. Then they began to ask, "Tell us about this God of yours." This is the twofold mission of The Salvation Army, as indicated in its International Mission Statement: "to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination."

The complete mission statement says, "The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination." It is this last part, "meeting human needs ... without discrimination," which most closely connects the purposes of The Salvation Army with the purposes of the United Nations. …

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