A delegation of US religious leaders returned yesterday (Sunday) from a week-long trip to Iran with a proposal for direct, government-to-government negotiations between the United States and Iran.
The delegation, which is the first US religious group to meet with an Iranian president in Iran since the revolution in 1979, was encouraged by President Ahmadinejad’s declaration that his country does not intend to develop nuclear weapons and his willingness to enter into direct, face-to-face talks with the United States government.
The religious leaders are also proposing that the U.S. government invite a delegation of Iranian religious leaders to visit the United States to help begin a dialogue between the two countries.
The 13-person religious delegation travelled to Iran to encourage a dialogue in the hope of averting war.
The group met with Muslim and Christian leaders, government officials, and other Iranian people.
The final day included a meeting with former President Khatami and current President Ahmadinejad. The meeting with President Ahmadinejad 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.
The delegation returns to the United States with a proposal that both the U.S. and Iranian governments immediately engage in direct, face-to-face talks and promote more people-to-people exchanges, including religious leaders, members of Congress, and civil society.
The religious leaders announced their proposals at a press conference today and will now meet with members of the US Congress to discuss their ideas for lessening tensions between the United States and Iran.
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, Pax Christi, and Sojourners/Call to Renewal in Washington, D.C.
A copy of the delegation’s final declaration and a list of members can be read here: http://www.fcnl.org/issues/item.php?item_id=2378&issue_id=123