Mennonite quilts will embody humanity of Iran peace mission

By staff writers
February 15, 2007

Handmade quilted wall hangings by Mennonite and Amish women from the USA are part of what the delegation of thirteen American Christian leaders will be carrying with them next week, during their peace-making visit to Iran.

The intention of the trip is to help defuse increasing tensions between the West and Iran, as well as facing tough political realities in a constructive way.

The wall hangings and a set of ceramic oil lamps made by Goshen, Indiana potter, Dick Lehman, will be presented from the delegation as gestures of peacemaking to the various Iranian leaders.

The idea is to root difficult conversation in the basic human and cultural bonds between the two peoples.

The delegation of leaders from Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, evangelical and peace churches is being coordinated by Mennonite Central Committee and the American Friends Service Committee.

"I think we can be a bridge that doesn't exist otherwise," said Jim Winkler, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. "As faith leaders we are dedicated to peace and reconciliation."

Winkler noted that the Iraq Study Group appointed by the US Congress and co-chaired by James A. Baker and Lee H. Hamilton recently recommended the United States develop diplomatic relations with Iran and Syria. "That was rejected by the current administration," he said.

For that reason, Christian leaders have decided to take the initiative in disarming the aggressive rhetoric which has surrounded recent arguments about nuclear power, Israel, regional stability, Iraq and human rights.

President Bush has said that Iran is directly involved in stoking the bloody insurgency in Iraq. President Ahmadinejad has categorically denied this.

The religious leaders have a two-hour meeting scheduled with Ahmadinejad, as well as visits with Iranian Evangelical Protestant leaders, the Archbishop of the Armenian Orthodox Church in Iran and Muslim religious leaders in the city of Qom.

Winkler said he would like to tell the Iranian president to "temper his remarks and change his views on a number of things."

He wants the president to know many people in the United States are working to bring about an end to the war in Iraq and trying to bring a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"We are trying to change US foreign policy from one based on confrontation, domination and intimidation to one of peace and cooperation and diplomacy," he said.

When the team meets with Christian and Muslim leaders, the goal is "to listen and hear their realities and views."

"I want to explore with them ways in which we can ensure peace and develop some lasting relationships between us as faith leaders and between our two countries," Winkler said.

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