Friday, February 16, 2007

Christian Peace Delegation Leaves for Iran Saturday

Tomorrow (Saturday) I will leave for Iran with a delegation of Christian leaders. The 13 member delegation organized by the Mennonite Central Committee and the American Friends Service Committee includes representatives from Mennonite, Quaker, Episcopal, United Methodist, Baptist and Roman Catholic traditions. I will represent the National Council of Churches’ member denominations.

At a time when war drums are beating indicating failed diplomacy between our government and the government of Iran , we feel that it is imperative for US religious leaders to meet and begin a dialogue with a variety of Iranian people. We expect to meet with Christian and Muslim leaders, women parliamentarians, the former president Khatemi and president Ahmedinejad.

The group is of one mind about its condemnation of president Ahmednejad’s denial of the holocaust and his remarks about Israel . We are well prepared to raise these difficult questions in our conversation with him. Some have questioned the wisdom of meeting with the president, since there is the danger that he might use it as a means to legitimize his views and bolster his image. While acknowledging this risk, I want to assure everyone that we are very carefully preparing to minimize that risk. We go with the confidence that dialogue with those whom we disagree and indeed even with our enemies, is always preferable to war.

I want to also assure my Christian colleagues who have expressed concern about our relations with our Jewish colleagues that I have personally talked to several key Jewish colleagues to give them a “heads up” and offer them the above mentioned assurances.

For me, the key conversations are with the religious leaders. As you know, religious leaders wield a great deal of power: having significant public following and moral authority. You may be aware that recently there has been unusual public criticism of the president by Iranian Muslim leaders. Opening channels of communication between Iranian and US religious leaders I think is critical for this time.

Shortly after our return, we will to make Capitol Hill visits to offer our perspectives to congresspersons.

I will post regular updates whenever I have an opportunity to do so. For your information, the NCC statement on our delegation is below.

The delegation has its own website on which relevant documents, press briefings, and regular updates will be posted.

Click here:


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