De Ja Vu at the United Nations

We took a tour of the United Nations and almost everything I saw was a connection to another place I’d been or something I had seen before.  This sculpture called A Sphere Within A Sphere by Arnaldo Pomodoro was a gift to the United Nations by the country of Italy and sits in the courtyard just before you enter the UN.  I took a photo of a very similar piece by the same artist when I visited the Vatican in Rome. To me the sculptures represent the world cracking apart enough for us to see it’s working interior. I think this gives us hope that it is possible to get the work done that we need to accomplish if we want to repair our fractured world. My husband Dave is chatting with a woman outside the United Nations who wanted people to sign a petition protesting the Chinese government taking over people’s land without giving them compensation for it. She reminded me of a woman from Hebei province I saw praying to Mao’s picture when I visited Tiananmen Square in Beijing. She said her family land had been confiscated without proper compensation and when her husband went to government officials to protest he was arrested.  A stained glass window by Marc Chagall sits just outside the chapel at the United Nations. It was presented by United Nations staff members and Chagall as a memorial to Dag Hammarskjold, the second Secretary General of the United Nations who died in a plane crash in 1961.  The window contains various symbols of peace and love. The musical notes in the window are a connection to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony a favorite of Mr. Hammarskjold’s.  I took this photo of a Chagall window in Mainz, Germany. It is one of a series of windows in St. Stephen’s church. The windows depict scenes from the Old Testament. Chagall made them after World War II to help Jews and Christians to remember the part of their faith story they share. He hoped this would aid in the reconciliation between Jews and German Christians after the Holocaust.  At the United Nations you can view a presentation about the need to eliminate nuclear weapons from our world. They have these clothes on display from a victim of the bombing of Hiroshima. It is to remind United Nations visitors of the horrible impact of nuclear weapons.  It brought to mind this photo I took in Hiroshima, Japan at the Peace Memorial Museum showing some of the victims immediately after the dropping of the bomb. These are home-made prosthesis made for victims of land mines in Cambodia. The United Nations is part of a world-wide mission to eliminate landmines. According to this United Nations website land mines still kill 15,000-20,000 people a year.  The United Nations display reminded me of my two visits to land mines museums in Cambodia. At one our guide had lost his arm to a land mine.  According to our guide the United Nations has been working on finding a solution to the question of Palestine since the first special session of the General Assembly in 1947. It reminded me of my visit to a Palestinian refugee camp with twenty-four of my students from Hong Kong. Here the guide shows us bullet holes in the wall around a soccer field where school children were playing. My husband Dave is listening to the audio description of a mural at the United Nations that depicts the nuclear accident at Chernobyl.  The mural reminded me of our visit to the Chernobyl Museum in Kiev, Ukraine. I took a picture of this photo collage which shows the faces of children who were victims of the disaster. Out of the 3 million people the Ukrainian government recognises as victims of Chernobyl, 642,000 are children. Our visit to the United Nations prompted me to make connections with many previous experiences we have had. It evoked memories of other places we had visited around the world. Since the organization’s mission is to build positive connections between countries I guess that’s not surprising.   

Dave poses on the steps across the street from the United Nations. On the wall behind him is a verse from Isaiah 2:4   “and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. “

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Filed under cambodia, History, New York, Politics, Travel

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