Delegation Visits Iran-- Hope for Peace in the Region Rooted
DC. As the US government contemplates the possibility of a regional
dialogue in the Middle East, religious
leaders, under the leadership of the World Council of Churches,
released a statement about their recent visit to Iran. Their
hope for peace is rooted in the possibility of new dialogue.
Christian leaders from the United States, we went to Iran at
this time of increased tension believing that it is possible
to build bridges of understanding between our two countries.
We believe military action is not the answer, and that God calls
us to just and peaceful relationships within the global community.
We were a diverse group of Christian
leaders that included United Methodist, Episcopal, Catholic,
Baptist, Evangelical, Quaker, and Mennonites who have 17 years
of on the ground experience in Iran. We were warmly welcomed
by the Iranian people, and our time in Iran convinced us that
religious leaders from both countries can help pave the way for
mutual respect and peaceful relations between our nations.
During our visit we met with
Muslim and Christian leaders, government officials, and other
Iranian people. Our
final day included a meeting with former President Khatami and
current President Ahmadinejad. The meeting with President
Ahmadinejad was the first time an American delegation had met
with a sitting Iranian President in Iran since the Islamic revolution
in 1979. The meeting lasted 2.5 hours and covered a range
of topics including the role of religion in transforming conflict,
Iraq, nuclear proliferation, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
What the delegation found most
encouraging from the meeting with President Ahmadinejad was a
clear declaration from him of no intention to acquire or use
nuclear weapons, as well as a statement that the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict can only be solved through political not military means. Finally,
he said, “I have no reservation about conducting talks
with American officials if we see some good will.”
We believe it is possible for
further dialogue and that there can be a new day in U.S. – Iranian relations. The
Iranian government has already built a bridge toward the American
people by inviting our delegation to come to Iran. We ask
the U.S. government to welcome a similar delegation of Iranian
religious leaders to the United States.
As additional steps in building bridges between
our nations, we call upon both the United States and Iranian
- Immediately engage in direct face-to-face
- Cease using language that
defines the other using “enemy” images
- Promote more people to people exchanges
including religious leaders, members of Parliament/Congress,
and civil society
As people of faith, we are committed
to working towards these and other confidence building measures,
which we hope will move our two nations from the precipice of
war towards a more just and peaceful settlement.