Friday, October 14, 2011
Post #1 - Welcome to Red Horse
I lived in a small Iranian town for eighteen months in the late sixties as a Peace Corps volunteer. I worked with children, shared my thoughts with Iranian colleagues, broke bread with them and learned their language. Ten years after my return to the United States, a friend of mine from Peace Corps days became one of the Americans taken hostage in Tehran. Like so many others, I followed that tense saga for 444 days and nights. More recently, I have worked closely with Iranian-Americans. I know and respect Haleh Esfandiari, an academic of dual Iranian and American citizenship who found herself imprisoned in Tehran a few years ago on a trip to visit her aging mother, guilty of nothing except a tangential relationship to our government, which seeks regime change in Iran. I followed the case of the American hikers, only recently released (on bail), without the charges ever having been made clear.
A few months ago, I attended a gathering of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who had served there between the years 1964 and 1976 -- about 150 of the 1400-odd volunteers made it to Portland, OR for the reunion. Many of the conversations revolved around the disjuncture between the life we had known in Iran and the state of relations between our two countries.
Many in America fear a country and a government they find strange, hostile and menacing, but having known the people who call Iran their home I cannot treat them like unknowable aliens or implacable adversaries. My Christian faith impels me to embrace both the suffering of the American hostages or hikers (and the potential risk to U.S. military personnel in case of a serious confrontation), and the suffering of the Iranian people, who have endured oppression, war and sanctions, both at the hands of my own country, and their own leaders.
Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, said in his Meditations on a Theme, that we may feel duty-bound, because of the regard that we have for some – such as our troops serving abroad who are in harm's way – to feel hatred for others, who may be their antagonists. But, he says (following Solzhenitsyn) that the real battle takes place:
"...in the hearts of men, between love and hatred, light and darkness, God and him who is the murderer from the beginning. To choose the ones in order to love them, to reject the others in order to hate them, whichever side you take, only adds to the sum total of hatred and darkness…the devil finds his own profit in it; he does not mind whom you hate; once you hate, you have opened a door for him to walk through, to creep into your heart, to invade a human situation."