Monday, February 26, 2007

Need for dialogue

I received the following emailed news item from Mary Anne, a kindred spirit and thoughtful friend, and felt it important enough to give it prominent placement on my blog. Heaven knows, we need to be opening up a dialogue with Iran.


As 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 usto 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

As additional steps in building bridges between our
nations, we call upon both the United States and Iranian
governments to:

* Immediately engage in direct face-to-face talks
* Cease using language that defines the other using "enemy"
* 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.

For more information contact:
Dan Webster
Director of Media Relations
National Council of Churches, USA
475 Riverside Drive Suite 880
New York, NY 10115
Phone: 212 870-2252
Fax 212 870-2030

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