Saturday, February 18, 2012
Post #189 - Faith-Based Efforts to Forestall War
In earlier posts I listed groups that working on Middle East Peace, and some resources on Iran. Here are some more references along those lines:
Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR)
Non-denominational peace group started in 1919. Iran peace delegations began in 2005; there have now been about a dozen of them. Members have included academics, clergy and other "ordinary citizens." Tours have included substantive meetings with people at universities, NGO's and sometimes with fairly high IRI officials.
National Council of Churches, USA
The Council has been fairly vocal on nuclear weaponry, cluster munitions and some other war-related issues, but has not pronounced itself directly on Iran, to my knowledge.
National Religious Partnership on Nuclear Weapons Danger (includes the Episcopal Church, the Islamic Society of North America and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism) has been similarly involved in policy discussion, if not strongly on record about the situation. They advocate a nuclear-free world, so the Middle East nuclear-free-zone idea is appealing to some of them.
Mennonite Central Committee and Eastern Mennonite University
Both have cultivated relationships in Iran for many years; they have been involved in arranging meetings in Iran and at the United Nations with President Ahmadinezhad, and delegations of unofficial Iranians to the United States. A local Mennonite group in Indiana has also organized Learning Tours to Iran.
Quakers: Friends Committee on National Legislation and American Friends Service Committee
Both groups have aided the people-to-people effort -- AFSC has helped a British-Iranian activist
Abbas Edalat set up meetings on his tours in the U.S. FCNL was involved (with the Mennonites) in a special religious leaders' delegation to Iran in 2007.
Innovators in Cultural Diplomacy (part of Americans for Informed Democracy, which supported a Michael Kinzer book/lecture tour) is helping college students do campus outreach to inform the general population about Islam.
Faith Clubs: Based on a dialogue between three women (Muslim, Christian and Jew) and the book they wrote, these groups seek to meet one another on a very personal level, to reduce misunderstanding and negative stereotyping.
Orthodox Peace Fellowship
An Eastern Orthodox group with most of its members in North America, OPF has published statements opposing the war in Iraq and advocating diplomacy instead of military options with regard to Iran, and featured articles about Iran on its website and in its quarterly journal. [I am its North American secretary.]
Leaders such as Jim Wallis of Sojourners, and speaker/writer Tony Campolo, while not specifically focused on Iran, have urged a very different approach to foreign policy and international relations and provide an alternative to the religious right.
United for Peace and Justice
At a Chicago conference that I attended, a special session was set up for Faith-Based Peacemaking, which was chaired by the head of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Mark Johnson, and a group of Iranian peace activists was welcomed at the conference and recognized from the podium.
One of the strongest voices on Iran has been the Catholic international peace group called Pax Christi, headed (until recently) by Dave Robinson, who was a fellow-delegate of mine to Iran in 2006; and NETWORK, which calls itself a "national Catholic social justice lobby."
Though the Reform movement (with leaders such as Rabbi Arthur Waskow) has been quite open to dialogue on Iran policy, the Holocaust-denial issue is still a "red-flag" issue for many of their members.
Peace coalitions in other countries, such as the U.K. and Australia, have included faith-based groups, and tend to oppose attacks on Iran.
Groups such as the Whitefeather Peace Community (in Oregon), Faith-Based Peace Coalition (in Illinois) or the Chattanooga Peace Activist Community (in Tennessee) and other groups such as Catholic Worker houses engage in a range of peace activities.