In May of 2008 we traveled to Iran on a Fellowship of Reconciliation delegation. Our goal was (and continues to be) citizen diplomacy and breaking down, in whatever small ways we can, the walls of hostility. We were greeted there by Iranians whose warmth and welcome were extraordinarily moving for us. In addition to the several formal meetings we had – with leaders in the Jewish community, the Armenian community, as well as with Muslim leaders, especially those with the Center for Interreligious Dialogue, the organization that hosted us – we had the opportunity to meet many Iranians on the street as we visited the cities of Tehran, Esfahan, Shiraz and toured the ruins of Persepolis, among other sites. The Iranians we met were delighted that we as citizens of the USA were visiting and they expressed fear of a US initiated war.
While still in Iran, we decided that once back in the states, we wanted to draft a Resolution to bring before the 2009 General Synod. Below is a draft of the resolution we have developed calling on us as people of faith to cultivate with our brothers and sisters in Iran an “Axis of Friendship,” as a counter to and antidote for the current administration’s “Axis of Evil.”
Resolutions for General Synod need the sponsorship of a minimum of six local congregations. We are hoping for many more than six. We are just now beginning to circulate this draft resolution. We are sending it to several colleagues who we believe will be interested in this; you are one of those colleagues. We welcome your feedback about the content of the resolution and also hope that you and your congregation will want to become sponsors of it. We will collect the feedback we get and plan to revise this draft, taking that feedback into consideration. We will then circulate that revised version to all congregations that have expressed their desire to become sponsors to be able then to finalize the list.
Please be in touch with the two of us, sending us your feedback and indicating your congregation’s interest in sponsoring. We look forward to hearing from you.
In peace and in hope,
The Rev. Patricia de Jong
The First Congregational Church of Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
The Rev. Allie Perry
Shalom United Church of Christ, New Haven, CT
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[Last revised November 18, 2008]
RESOLUTION: AXIS OF FRIENDSHIP WITH IRAN
On September 12, 2001, America's September 11th tragedy brought an outpouring of sympathy from many unlikely places, even from far off Tehran, Iran. Thousands of Iranians lit candles in solidarity with the people of the United States. This global sympathy was spurned months later when the then President Bush included Iran in his Axis of Evil and seized 9/11 as a pretext for war. Since then President Bush and members of his administration have repeatedly alleged that Iran poses an imminent threat to the United States, U.S. troops in the Middle East and U.S. allies.
The risks of war with Iran, as a result, have been heightened. The costs of such a war are incalculable and would bring endless suffering to countless families, Iranian and American. Few Americans or Iranians want to bury their children and loved ones as the result of another war. Current political hostilities and diplomatic failures could not have higher stakes, including a broader regional war or even a nuclear conflict.
We reject the reality, or even the concept, of an “Axis of Evil.” We invite your support in refusing to look at Iran through the lens of an Axis of Evil and affirming instead the Axis of Friendship that unites our faiths and families as one. Indeed, over the years, the people of the United States have welcomed thousands of Iranians to this country; they are neighbors and friends.
To help to cultivate the Axis of Friendship between the people of Iran and the United States of America, on this September 12th, we ignite the embers of good will.
The United Church of Christ declared itself to be a Just Peace Church at the 15th General Synod in 1985 and affirms non-violent approaches to international situations of conflict. In a nuclear age, just wars are morally and practicably impossible. Hence, for dangerous situations and hostilities we must instead find solutions that protect life, generate mutual respect and accountability, and lead to genuine peace. Jesus called us to be peacemakers and to love our enemies. When we love our enemies, we create the possibility of their becoming our friends.
WHEREAS, the prophetic tradition of the Hebrew scriptures tells of a God that “……shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4); and
WHEREAS, Paul teaches that we are to “...live peaceably with all…” (Romans 12:18) and to “…be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good…” (Romans 12:21): and,
WHEREAS, Pope Benedict XVI, in his Easter, 2006, message “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the City and to the World”) speaking on the possibility of a pre-emptive attack against Iran, expressed hope that “an honorable solution be found for all parties through serious and honest negotiations” and,
WHEREAS, Jesus called people to live in accordance with the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor (Matt. 22:36-40), and exhorted his followers to love their enemies (Matt. 5: 44); and,
WHEREAS, the Bush administration used the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to stir the worst fears and aggressions of the people of the United States and to create an axis of evil for pre-emptive war, putting Iran on this list, and,
WHEREAS, Iran has not threatened to attack the United States, and no compelling evidence has been presented to document that Iran poses a real and imminent threat to the security and safety of the United States that would justify an unprovoked unilateral pre-emptive military attack; and,
WHEREAS, a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), representing the consensus view of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, concluded that Iran froze its nuclear weapons program in 2003, and an earlier NIE report concluded that Iran's involvement in Iraq "is not likely to be a major driver of violence" there, and,
WHEREAS, Congress considered legislation (H.R. 362) in September 2008 to conduct a naval blockade against Iran, an act of war under international law, and,
WHEREAS, war with Iran would likely wreck untold suffering on the lives of Iranians and Americans, would create a major disruption in the world oil market, would cost perhaps three times the lives and dollars of the war with Iraq, and would stress an already thinly stretched military , and
WHEREAS, Iran is a country with an ancient history dating back to the third millennium BCE and a venerable culture, and for centuries the government has not attacked another country; and the people of Iran are not the enemies of the people of the United States, and,
WHEREAS, the people of the United States have welcomed Iranians to our shores and become their friends, such that the largest concentration of Iranians outside Iran now lives in the state of California,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that this Twenty-Seventh General Synod of the United Church of Christ assert its opposition to war as a strategy and policy for resolving conflicts with Iran, and urges our government to pursue the path of diplomacy and nonviolence;
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Synod promote and work for an Axis of Friendship between the people of Iran and the United States of America, in specific creating opportunities through Global Ministries for citizen exchanges; and
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Synod declare September 13, 2009 an annual Axis of Friendship Day:
- Encouraging all its members to light a candle for the Axis of Friendship in their windows on the same day every year.
- Holding special services of candle-lighting and peace in local churches.
- Helping congregations celebrate the Axis of Friendship with festivals in their local areas, wherever Iranian Americans live.
- Encouraging the Common Global Ministries staff to inform all our global partners to pursue similar actions.
First Congregational Church of Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Pat de Jong firstname.lastname@example.org
Shalom United Church of Christ, New Haven, CT
Allie Perry email@example.com
Judson Memorial Church, New York, NY
Donna Schaper firstname.lastname@example.org
[We need six congregations to sponsor this resolution]