There was President Bush's appeal to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and his condemnation of the extremists and terrorists who are hell-bent on killing the innocent. With each appeal to the ideals the Universal Declaration was praise for himself or his allies. But with each denunciation against extremists and terrorists came denial that his decision to invade Iraq was considered extreme in comparison to world opinion and involved much violence or terror. In addition, President Bush was silent about the violence of his ally Israel that saw fit to kill approximately 1,000 Lebanese civilians in response to the kidnapping of 2 Israeli soldiers and the killing of a few others.
There was also President Ahmadinejad's speech. While he inquired as to who could provide relief for the oppressed, he neglected to mention that some of those same oppressed were suffering under his own regime. In addition, while railing against those who stockpile nuclear weapons, he did not include his own regime despite the uncertainty regarding the direction of his country's nuclear program. Nor did he mention that he supports Hezbollah which has attacked Israeli civilians.
And finally there was Chavez and his references to Chomsky's views on American hegemony. While he recommended that all read what Chomsky said against Bush, he neglected to mention Chomsky's criticisms of friends like Ahmadinejad and Castro.
In short, the speeches of these three men shared two characteristics. First, each speaker had valid complaints about threats posed by others in the world. Bush is right to condemn terrorists who viciously attack the innocent. Ahmadinejad is right to challenge and criticize US and Israeli policies that have resulted in much suffering. Finally, Chavez is more than justified to defiantly stand against US attempts to dominate the world's resources. Second, they came to praise, rather than to bury, themselves.
Such a scenario reminds one of a Gospel parable that Jesus told to challenge the all too human trait of self-righteousness. In this parable, Jesus describes the prayers of two men as they were confessing sin. The prayer of the religious leader correctly confessed the sin of the nearby tax collector while he praised himself. The parable did not directly challenge the assertions made by this religious leader. But the end of the parable made the religious leader's self-aggrandizement a moot point. That is because the person who went home justified was the tax collector who confessed his own sin.
What would happen if our world's leaders followed the example of the contrite tax collector rather than that of the proud religious leader? What if our leaders admitted to practicing or promoting injustice and oppression? What if Bush, Chavez, and Ahmadinejad confessed either their own or their allies' violations of international law? What would be the result?
One such result might be that each of these Presidents would be more inclined to sit and listen to others. Listening to another person's confession of sin is rarely a threatening experience. As it stands now, none of these leaders sat and listened to the other. As a result, we are closer to conflict than concord.
Another result might be that injustice and oppression would be defined universally by law rather than relatively by participant. For example, Bush sees the killing of innocent civilians as terrorism when the Islamic extremists do it but not when it is done with high-tech weapons by his own troops. He also apparently sees the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers as an act of war but has no problem when Israel kidnaps Palestinians or detains Arabs without due process. Likewise, Ahmadinejad expresses no qualms when terrorists attack Israel or when Hezbollah fires rockets at Israeli civilian targets while he protests Israel's brutal attacks on the Palestinians and Lebanese.
Finally, another result just might be a reluctance to rely on coercion and force in order to resolve disputes. This is because when one can relate to the faults of others, one is hesitant to demand punishment. Instead, one is more willing to listen, to understand the context of the situation, and to rely more on persuasion to resolve conflicts.
What would Jesus say to Presidents Bush, Chavez, and Ahmadinejad were he to speak at the UN? Perhaps, He has already said His peace with this parable of the two men praying.