World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, in his recent visit to Iran, underlined the important role of faith leaders, religious communities and governments in working together for the cause of justice and peace.
Dr Tveit was in Iran from 15 to 20 February 2014, where he met with representatives of the WCC member churches and participated in the seventh round of dialogue between the WCC and the Centre for Inter-religious Dialogue (CID), held last week in Tehran.
In Tehran, Dr Tveit met with Dr Ali Jannati, minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Dr Abouzar Ebrahimi, president of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organisation was also present.
In his discussion with the minister, the WCC General Secretary stressed the significant role Iran could play for peace and stability in the Middle East region, including Syria.
“The cultural history of Iran as well as its strategic location in the Middle East makes it one of the important actors in ensuring a peaceful coexistence between the different religions, denominations, ethnic groups and countries,” said Tveit.
Speaking at a dinner hosted by Ebrahimi to mark the conclusion of the WCC and CID dialogue meeting, Tveit stressed the necessity of inter-religious dialogue and cooperation to enhance mutual understanding and openness in listening to one another.
While speaking to representatives of the Iranian churches, Dr Tveit said that he was inspired to see “churches giving a Christian witness through their presence and service in the Iranian society”.
The WCC delegation visited the Synod of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Iran and the Armenian Apostolic Church (Holy See of Cilicia), the WCC member churches in Tehran, where they learnt more about the historic roots of the churches in the Iranian cultural, economic and social landscapes.
On the second day of the visit the delegation was hosted by the University of Religions in Qom. At the university, the WCC General Secretary emphasised the prominent role of academic institutions in strengthening interfaith dialogue and promoting justice and peace.
Also in Qom the delegation met with the leading religious figure Ayatollah Abdollah Javadi Amoli. In meeting with him, Tveit stressed the responsibility of leaders of faith in promoting justice and peace to build a world free of nuclear weapons.
The WCC delegation was also hosted by the Armenian Prelacy of Isfahan, where they had the chance to explore some of the historic cultural sites of the city. The delegation learnt about the Christian presence in Isfahan, which has existed since the 17th century, as a witness of the intercultural and inter-religious legacy of the Iranian communities.
During the visit, Dr Tveit was accompanied by Archbishop Makarios of Kenya, WCC Asia president the Rev Dr Chang Sang, Father Michel Jalakh, General Secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches, and the Rev Dr Jean-Claude Basset of Switzerland.