In the face of increasingly heated rhetoric between the governments of the United States and Iran, the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s (FOR) third interfaith peace delegation will depart for Iran next Wednesday, February 28th. The delegation, which will spent 12 days in Iran, is part of FOR’s ongoing commitment to working for peace, justice, and the nonviolent resolution of conflict.
A total of 24 U.S citizens from across the nation, representing several faith traditions, will travel as “civilian diplomats” to meet with ordinary Iranians as well as leaders from the religious, non-governmental, and political sectors. The Iranian-born Leila Zand, who is co-leader of the delegation and coordinator of FOR’s Iran Program, said, “We hope this delegation will be a symbol of the desire of many Americans for peace between our two countries.”
Since the last FOR delegation to Iran in May 2006, relations between the United States and Iran have become deeply strained. The U.S. government has accused Iranian officials of supplying military training and explosives to insurgents in Iraq, and has argued that Iran’s nuclear program intends to build a nuclear weapon. A second U.S. Navy carrier has moved in recent weeks to the Persian Gulf region, within striking range of Iran, and news reports indicate that a third carrier will soon follow – while U.S. officials refuse to take the prospect of military intervention “off the table.
The Fellowship of Reconciliation, founded in 1915, does not believe that threats and intimidation are appropriate policies in dealing with those with whom we may disagree. Rather, FOR believes in diplomacy and dialogue, in reaching out to the humanity in all people, especially those demonized and labeled enemies. It is precisely because Iran has been depicted as “evil” that FOR is traveling to Iran at this time. FOR peace delegations visited the former Soviet Union at the height of communist rule; delegations also visited Vietnam, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the Philippines, and Latin America, at times when conflict and civil war raged in those regions.
Ed Kinane, a delegation member from Syracuse, New York who lived in Iraq for five months in 2003, said, “These days saber-rattling is bringing the world to the brink of further war. We civilians can’t sit by and let governments destroy us all.”
The delegates will meet with independent and state-run media, academics, and Muslim religious leaders, as well as representatives of minority Christian, Jewish, and Zoroastrian communities. They will visit arts centers and non-governmental organizations, including women’s and environmental groups. They will also tour cultural centers and Persian historical sites. Zand said, “This delegation will enable U.S. citizens and Iranians to learn firsthand about one another and to exchange ideas about peaceful ways to de-escalate tensions between nations.
FOR’s delegation, like its two predecessors, will encourage citizens of both countries to gain a deeper understanding of the roots of their governments’ conflict. Following their return to the United States, these civilian diplomats will engage in public education and civic engagement, seeking to develop and promote new processes for ending animosity without violence.
FOR Iran Program: Leila Zand , 845-358-4601 ext. 27, firstname.lastname@example.org, 518-421-4918 (cell)
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