The Common Good

U.S. Religious Leaders Find Hope in Iran, Report on Meeting with Iranian President, Religious Leaders

Date: February 26, 2007

Sojourners/Call to Renewal

 *******MEDIA ADVISORY*******

Media contact: Jack Pannell, 202-745-4614; Colin Mathewson, 202-745-4625

 

U.S. Religious Leaders Find Hope in Iran, Report on Meeting with Iranian President, Religious Leaders

Jeff Carr, Chief Operating Officer for Sojourners/Call to Renewal, returns from trip with plea for “true and lasting” peace with Iran

Washington, D.C. – (Monday, February 26, 2007) A delegation of U.S. religious leaders returning from a week-long trip to Iran held a press conference  in Washington, D.C. today to brief reporters on their meetings with the Iranian president and Iranian religious leaders. This is the first religious delegation to meet with an Iranian president in Iran since the revolution in 1979.  Their prepared statement can be found below.

The 13-person religious delegation, which included Jeff Carr, Chief Operations Officer of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, traveled to Iran to encourage a dialogue in the hope of averting a war. Delegation members discussed with government officials the political situation inside Iran, Iranian foreign policy, and Iran’s nuclear energy program. In the coming weeks, the group will meet with members of the U.S. Congress, informing them of what the delegation heard from leaders in Iran and suggesting ways to begin lessening current tensions.

“I am convinced that the only path for a true and lasting peace with justice will require that we find a way to tell our stories and to have our stories heard,” said Carr.  “Then we must begin to write a new narrative together, one that comes out of humility, mutual respect, and shared understanding. May God help both our nations and peoples to begin the healing and reconciliation process so we may avoid war and build that lasting peace.”

In addition to Carr of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, the delegation that visited Iran from February 17-25 included representatives of Mennonite, Quaker, Episcopal, Catholic, and United Methodist churches, as well as the National Council of Churches and Pax Christi in Washington, D.C.

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Sojourners/Call to Renewal is a Christian ministry whose mission is to articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world. Visit www.sojo.net, www.RedLetterChristians.org, and www.GodsPolitics.com. For more on the Iran delegation, visit www.irandelegation.org.

For a media advisory on the March 16th Christian Peace Witness for Iraq visit www.Christianpeacewitness.org.  The Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, organized by a broad cross section of Christian denominational peace groups and organizations, is expected to be the largest peace gathering of Christians expressing opposition to the war since it began four years ago.

Prepared statement read at the February 26 press conference:

U.S.Religious Leaders Find Hope in Iran

February 25, 2007

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 us to just and peaceful relationships within the global community.

We are a diverse group of Christian leaders that include United Methodists, Episcopal, Baptists, Catholics, Evangelicals, Quakers, 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 in Iran with an Iranian president since the Islamic revolution in 1979.   The meeting lasted two-and-a-half 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 that Iran has 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. He said, “I have no reservation about conducting talks with American officials if we see some goodwill.”

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 U.S. and Iranian governments to:

* immediately engage in direct, face-to-face talks;

* cease using language that defines the other using “enemy”    images; and

* 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 toward these and other confidence building measures, which we hope will move our two nations from the precipice of war to a more just and peaceful settlement.  

Signed,

Iran Delegation