Ambassador Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, President of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, was among several Muslims that attended a special church service in New York on Monday evening.
The service, hosted by the Church of the Holy Family, United Nations Parish, is an annual tradition of the UN to usher in every new session of the Assembly.
Monday’s edition came shortly after the President of the 73rd UNGA, Ms Maria Espinosa, handed over to Muhammad-Bande at the UN headquarters a few meters away.
Other Muslims at the service included presidential spokesman, Mr Garba Shehu; former Chairman of INEC, Prof, Attahiru Jega, and officials of Nigerian missions to the UN and the United States.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres; the Deputy Secretary General, Ms Amina Mohammed, also a Muslim, and Espinosa, equally attended the service.
Speakers at the occasion underscored the significance of the composition of the gathering to religious tolerance and harmony.
In his address, Guterres said “our presence here sends an important message” at a time of “widespread polarisation and horrific violence targeting people solely for their (religious) identity”.
“We are recognising our human connections and reaffirming respect for each other’s religions, cultures and traditions”, he said.
Muhammad-Bande said the service was a reminder of the “place of faith and the role that empathy and love can play in agreeing when we want to disagree”.
He urged all those present to recommit themselves to God and seek His intervention while also doing their best to address the challenges facing the world.
The Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, Bishop Paul Hinder, spoke in similar vein in a sermon.
Hinder called on Muslims, Christians and adherents of other religions to unite and find a common cause in the fight against religious violence and extremism.
The service featured special prayers for the UN and its leaders, for lasting peace in war-torn regions and for a “globalisation of solidarity” against hunger hunger, poverty, disease, among others.