Iran Elections: Hope, Excitement, Concern

By Jim Wallis 6-16-2009

Elections -- indeed the democratic process itself -- shape countries, culture, and the future, no matter what their outcome.

The results of the hotly disputed Iranian elections are still in question. The meaning of the peaceful protests, the riots, and the reaction of the government is still unclear. But what many in the world are now seeing clearly for the first time is a cultural and generational shift that demands something new for their own country and a different kind of engagement with their world.

I continue to be moved by the images of people in the streets, many of them young, as they protest and march to ensure that their votes are counted. Some of my younger staff members are following updates from protesters their age all day on twitter in real time. They read within minutes their global peers' concerns for missing friends who have not yet returned from the marches, desperate searches for doctors to tend wounds inflicted by riot police, and growing concerns that the government would track their cell phones and end their online protests. They have quickly formed relationships with those half a world away and feel a deep sense of loss when a young person whose updates they had been following are suddenly stopped, their account gone dark.

There are reports of mass kidnappings from universities and rumors of student organizers being killed. As I watch events continue to unfold, I realize with great concern and cautious optimism that the last time I felt this hope, excitement, and concern was in the days preceding the Tiananmen Square Massacre. The signals are strong and the opportunities they portend are hopeful. But, no matter whom this election eventually installs into office, this democratic process will shape the country, the culture, and the future of the Middle East and the world.

Jim Wallis is CEO of Sojourners.

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