Monday, January 30, 2012

Post #171 - More Bridges


More on groups that are trying to connect Americans and Iranians...

A group called Citizens for Diplomacy Not Confrontation has promoted the idea of American and Iranian lawmakers meeting one another to find common ground and address common concerns. They have traveled to Washington, DC and lobbied their elected officials to “think outside the box” of U.S.-Iran relations of the past thirty years. CDNC has proposed that the Congress “do what the administration has failed to do” – establish a dialogue with counterparts in Iran.

Amb. Zarif, with UN Secy.-Gen. Ban Ki Moon
In November 2006, a group of students from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University, Medford, MA) and The Kennedy School of Government (Harvard University, Cambridge) traveled to New York City with Jebsen Center for Counter-Terrorism Studies deputy director Paula Broadwell to visit the home of the Hon. Javad Zarif, at that time the Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations. Ambassador Zarif, his wife Maryam, and their guests enjoyed a private dinner and a rare opportunity to openly discuss topics vital to both nations. The Ambassador and his wife Maryam gave the students a tour of their residence which contains three works by artist Marc Chagall. Three months after this dinner, Boston University arranged a video teleconference for Ambassador Zarif that was attended by 1,200 students.

The Third National Assembly of United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of over 1300 national and local groups, many of whom have lobbied against war with Iran, met in Chicago in June of 2007. The delegates heard from a dozen Iranian citizens who had traveled from Iran and cycled their way through Italy, Germany, France and England before reaching the United States. The group, called Miles for Peace, brought wishes for reconciliation and cooperation from the people of Iran. Common people, as well as mayors and legislators, had returned the favor by welcoming them warmly in each of the countries they visited. Their creed reads in part: “Humanity is an indivisible entity. The world is home to all humans. No man or nation does not need other men or nations. No nation is superior or inferior to any other nation.”

Enough Fear, whose name gives the group's motivation with great economy, has built a website that features hundreds of photos of people all around the world who are telling their leaders: "Stop!" "It's time" they say, "to put a stop to dangerous cycle of threats and provocation...it's our lives that are at stake." See: www.enoughfear.org/

The Shalom Center, based in Philadelphia, sees unity at the roots of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Their call -- emanating from American religious communities -- is for "a serious effort to make peace with Iran." Signatories of this call have included officials of the American Jewish University, Islamic Society of North America, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church and others.In each of these citizen initiatives, the goal has been to afford Americans an opportunity to see “those people” who live somewhere “over there” become real people with real faces and feelings.

Leila Zand
Leila Zand, an immigrant from Iran (and current director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Iran Program), wrote last winter: "I live in upstate New York, where I have a beautiful backyard…with flowers and trees…butterflies and birds. Every morning I take my coffee and go to my backyard." Zand imagines the situation of an Iraqi woman “who has to listen to the sound of explosions instead of songs of birds,” and wonders “if there are any birds still alive in Baghdad.” She says:

"I am happy that I am not in Iraq…I am happy I am not in Iran to live with the fear of the American army surrounding me: in Afghanistan to the east, Iraq to the west, the Persian Gulf to the south and Azerbaijan and Kyrgystan to the north. I am happy that I don’t have to live with the fear of a war starting every moment.
"I am happy that I am not there. But what about those people who live there?...Our nation is in the war but we don’t feel it in our daily lives…But should we be happy when another human being exactly like us is suffering every moment? Should we be relaxed having our coffee every day without any sympathy for another creature of our God?
"I came from…war myself…I was there when my countrymen exploded on landmines…I was there and saw with my own eyes, when a mother had to bury her kids with her own hands. I was there when a father wanted to bury his kids in the living room so he wouldn’t miss them. I was there when my school exploded…I was there and listened to the people burning and screaming with pain. “I am burning, help, help.”…I still hear these people while I am drinking my coffee in my backyard. I live with these memories every moment. These are parts of my life.
"I believe that as long as there are human beings in this world who are suffering from bomb explosions and attacks on their lives, we cannot have our coffee in peace while listening to the birds."

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