U.S. religious leaders say Iranian-British dispute shows need for diplomacy -- NCC Press Release
Philadelphia, March 26, 2007 – The delegation of U.S. religious leaders who visited Iran last month says the "Iranian seizure of British naval personnel underscores in dramatic fashion our call for diplomatic relations" between the U.S. and Iran.
"The US and Iran should have the same channels as the United States did with the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War to avoid circumstances where misunderstandings, accidents, or other unanticipated events could lead to a military confrontation," said a statement [complete text below] released last Friday (March 23) by eight members of the delegation including the Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, associate general secretary for interfaith relations at the National Council of Churches USA.
"When political leaders mess up, religious leaders ought to be here to go and build up the people, build up relationships, and bring the conversation up to the high moral ground," the Rev. Dr. Premawardhana told this past weekend's PBS broadcast, NOW. A producer from NOW accompanied the 13 religious leaders on its February trip to Tehran and the holy city of Qom. The program may be viewed online at http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/312/video.html .
The leaders of Baptist, Quaker, Mennonite, Evangelical, United Methodist, Episcopal and Roman Catholic church groups were the first official American delegation of any kind to visit Iran in 28 years. They met with Iranian religious and government officials including Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the controversial president of Iran.
The statement's release came following a meeting here of the delegation to plan future actions designed to help lessen tensions between Iran and the U.S.
The text of the statement follows:
U.S. Religious Leaders Issue Statement Regarding Iranian-British Incident in the Gulf. Renew Call for Direct Talks with Iran
(March 23, 2007) The incident today of Iranian seizure of British naval personnel underscores in dramatic fashion our call for diplomatic relations between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran does have an ambassador in London and we understand that communications between Great Britain and Iran are already underway. We pray that this matter will be resolved quickly and peacefully, without harm to human life.
The US and Iran should have the same channels as the United States did with the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War to avoid circumstances where misunderstandings, accidents, or other unanticipated events could lead to a military confrontation. That is why we again call for diplomatic ties with Iran, believing that a new day for US-Iran relations is both possible and necessary.
Mary Ellen McNish, General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee*
Rev. Ron Flaming, Director of International Programs, Mennonite Central Committee
Rev. J. Daryl Byler, Washington Office Director, Mennonite Central Committee
Joe Volk, Executive Secretary, Friends Service Committee on National Legislation
Jonathan Evans, Special Representative for Iran, American Friends Service Committee
Maureen Shea, Director, Office of Government Relations, Episcopal Church USA
Rev. Dr. Shanta Devadasa Premawardhana, Associate General Secretary for Interfaith Relations, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
Rev. Jeff Carr, Chief Operating Officer, Sojourner/Call to Renewal
*Organizations listed for affiliation purposes only