Monday, February 19, 2007

From Tehran

The delegation haivng just arrived, at the Tehran Airport
The ladies needed to wear veils before disembarking from the plane -- that's the law!

This is a quick narrative. Later, I will explore in greater detail some of the issues raised and their impact on our purpose of creating opportunities for dialogue.

We arrived in Tehran at 2 a.m. on Monday, having spent 10 hours or so at Frankfurt. The purpose of that was to meet with the Iranian ambassador to the UN in Geneva who flew in just to meet with us. Educated at George Washington University as a political scientist, he was extremely familiar with American political scene. This was an excellent introduction to what is going on in Iran from someone who despite being an Iranian diplomat spoke very frankly in language with which we are very familiar.

We were warmly welcomed in Tehran by the Iranian Foreign Ministry. In that initial welcome it was clear to us that the news media had reported on our arrival and a sense of expectation had been created. we learned that some think of Americans as "enemies." Not surprising, with all the rhetoric coming out of Washington! We also learned that one news report had depicted us as "missionaries." This means that for fear of who we might evangelize, we'll be watched, for who we will meet what we will say, and perhaps even what we will write on our blogs!
Monday afternoon we had two meetings. The first was with the Armenian Orthodox Archbishop Sarkassian. I greeted him on behalf his colleague, Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, the next president of the NCC. He helped us understand better the issues faced by the Armenian church and the Christian community in Iran. He insisted that the NCC bring another delegation that included Orthodox (we explained that Archbishop Vicken was invited to go, but couldn't)

I presented a quilt and an oil lamp to Archbishop Sarkissian on behalf of the delegation.
We will encourage our churches to light oil lamps as a sign of solidarity with the people of Iran.

Next we visited Ayatollah Imami Keshani and his 120 year old seminary. The seminary library has an entire section devoted to ancient handwritten books. They showed us a hand written Qur'an from the 10th century. The Aytollah, who until recently used to be a member of the Supreme Council (a council of top Iranian clerics who can and do veto any legislation and seems to have greater powers than our Supreme Court). An older and amible man spoke softly but forcefully on many questions of tension between our nations. One of his answers included a passionate defence of Friday sermons in which sometimes imams say things that inflame passions of the congregants. I came away thinking about what more we need to do to keep our own Christian ayatollah's in check. More on such themes and pictures later.

Do keep us in your prayer. Expectations of our delegation are high in Iran -- that's not a very good thing as far as I am concerned. And the next days are going to be very hectic.
For more information on the delegation go to:


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