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U.S., Iranian religious leaders promote peace



 U.S. religious leaders meet with Ayatollah Kashani in Tehran during their week-long peace trip in an effort to ease tensions between Iran and the United States.  A UMNS Web-only photo by Mark Beach.

By United Methodist News Service*
Feb. 21, 2007 

A United Methodist is among religious leaders from the United States and Iran meeting in Iran to find common ground among faith groups as a step toward international peace, particularly as political tensions grow between the two nations.

The 13-member U.S. delegation arrived in Tehran on Feb. 19 and includes Jim Winkler, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, the church's social action agency.

The delegation met with the Archbishop of the Armenian Church in Iran and the Tehran-based Ayatollah who leads Friday prayers and is a member of the Iranian Council of Experts.



The Rev. Shanta Premawardhana (right) of the National Council of Churches presents a quilt stitched by Amish and Mennonite members to Armenian Orthodox Archbishop Sabu Sarkission.  A UMNS Web-only photo by Mark Beach.

Their Feb. 19 discussions were among a weeklong series of meetings scheduled between the U.S. religious leaders and Iranian religious leaders--both Christian and Muslim--as well as government leaders in Iran.

The group is expected to meet with Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during the next few days.

Representatives participated in a three-hour Quest for Truth meeting on Feb. 20 sponsored by the Islamic Culture and Religion Organization. Scholars and religious leaders agreed that although dialogue is important, now is the time for action.

"We need to go beyond dialogue and establish tangible results," said Iranian Ayatollah Monhaghegh Damad of Shahid Behesti University in Tehran. "We need to hold dialogue to eliminate ambiguities and misunderstandings between religions that emerge once in a while and work through them to establish peace."

"Peace is the key teaching of Christianity and Islam and this will be realized in our lives," said Archbishop Sabu Sarkission of the Armenian Orthodox church in Iran. "This is the product of dialogue."

In addition to The United Methodist Church, the U.S. delegation represents the Mennonite, Quaker, Episcopal and Catholic churches. The group is scheduled to return Feb. 25 and plans to meet with members of Congress to report on their conversations.

The delegation has scheduled a news conference for Feb. 26 at the National Press Club in Washington. For the latest news on the group's talks, visit www.irandelegaton.org.

*This report was provided by Larry Guengerich, Mennonite Central Committee.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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