WASHINGTON - May 4 - Despite the rise in tensions between the United States and Iran, and talk of sanctions or military intervention, the Fellowship of Reconciliation will send its second, interfaith peace delegation to Iran on Sunday, May 7. The delegation, which will spent 12 days in the country, is part of FOR’s ongoing commitment to working for peace, justice, and the nonviolent resolution of conflict.
A total of 22 Americans and one British citizen, representing several faith traditions, will take with them thousands of personal messages of friendship written by ordinary Americans. These messages will be delivered to major Iranian media outlets.
Since the last delegation to Iran returned in December, 2005, relations between the United States and Iran have become even more strained over Iran’s nuclear program. The positions of both governments have become increasingly belligerent, while the United States has even threatened military intervention.
The Fellowship of Reconciliation, which was founded in 1914, 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 officially demonized and labeled enemies. It is precisely because Iran has been depicted as “evil,” and because peaceful options are being increasingly sidelined, that the Fellowship of Reconciliation believes its peace mission to be vital.
Dialogue has long been a hallmark of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the oldest interfaith peace and justice organization in the nation. FOR peace delegations visited the former Soviet Union at the height of communist rule; delegations also visited Vietnam, the Philippines, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Latin America, as conflict and civil war raged in those regions.
The delegates will visit cultural and historic centers. They 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.
The delegation will enable U.S. citizens and Iranians to learn firsthand about one another and to exchange ideas about peaceful ways to de-escalate the tensions between their countries. Americans and Iranians will exchange ideas on the creation and maintenance of a democratic and independent society.
FOR hopes this delegation, like its predecessor, will encourage in citizens of both countries a deeper understanding of the roots of their governments’ conflict. Ultimately, we hope they will generate new processes for ending the animosity without violence.