The UN and global businesses: poor bedfellows

By , Kathe Geist and John McManus

Your hopeful Sept. 8 editorial on Kofi Annan's Global Compact between the United Nations and corporations ("A new global compact?") sounds well-intentioned. But it reflects a direction we must not go - one that favors corporations who would sport the UN flag and continue doing what they've always done. There is no verification for their claims to honor the nine principles and become clean and supportive of human rights and labor justice.

How is Nike going to suddenly end its predatory practices in sweatshops, and how is Shell Oil Co. going to clear itself of destruction to both the environment in Nigeria and the Oguni who are trying to protect it? The practices of Disney, McDonald's, Nike, Pfizer, Unocal, and others will not enhance the UN image or its achievement in humanitarian and development concerns around the world.

The Global Compact brings together entities with radically different purposes. I have long respected Kofi Annan and advocated US dues-paying to the UN. This compact is a serious disappointment. We must not commercialize the UN, the one hopeful place for international dialogue and action for a better society.

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Grace Braley Yonkers, N.Y.

Cheating on the rise, not corruption

Regarding Tito Morales's Sept. 5 opinion piece "School cheating as social corrosion": The connection between students cheating and unethical business practices sounds reasonable, but, unfortunately, it's nothing new. My generation came of age in the 1960s, protesting dishonesty and corruption in business and government, which was far worse then and far more tolerated than anything we see today.

The precipitous rise in school cheaters probably says more about schools today than it does about a creeping moral decay in society at large. Integrity is cultivated not only in homes and churches, but by leaders of different organizations. School cheaters may simply reflect the lack of integrity that pervades American education at all levels, from the unwillingness of politicians and taxpayers to support decent facilities and top-notch teachers, to the way colleges exploit part-time faculty. Students may cheat because they're being cheated from receiving a decent education. Reform in American education needs to be a moral reform in the broadest sense of the term, far more than a reform of merely academic standards.

Kathe Geist Brookline, Mass.

Different opinions in Catholic faith

As a lifelong Catholic who loves his faith, I wish to apologize to all those of other religions for the recent 36-page statement issued by the Vatican (as noted in the Monitor's "News in Brief" Sept. 6.)

Not all of us believe that "the Catholic Church is the sole path to spiritual salvation for all humanity," and that "other religions are gravely deficient." My wife and I were greatly embarrassed by this statement. Jesus Christ gave us two commandments: to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

In contrast, this recent statement, which is arrogant and abusive in tone, does not show love of our neighbors of different religions. Further, when asked who was our neighbor, Christ gave the example of the Good Samaritan, and praised him, even though the Samaritan observed a different religion than Christ.

There are enough problems facing all God's people throughout the world today. Solutions are far better served by cooperation among all religions than by attempts to accentuate differences in old dogmas.

John McManus Baton Rouge, La.

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