God's Politics

In this time of heightened tensions among the three Abrahamic faiths, it is essential that we reach out to representatives of other religions who are potential partners for peace. Last September, the Very Rev. Sam Lloyd and I invited the Mohammed Khatami, former President of Iran, to speak at Washington National Cathedral. In December, I visited with the former president and other religious and political leaders in Iran as part of a four-member delegation from Washington National Cathedral and the Convocation of American Churches in Europe. Though there are considerable disagreements between our two countries, there are also opportunities to cultivate relationships among people of faith, and it is imperative that we explore them.

+ Read more of Bishop Chane’s thoughts about his visit to Iran

The recent victory of reform-minded candidates in Iran’s municipal elections, coming on the heels of the Iranian government’s reprehensible conference for Holocaust deniers, neatly symbolizes that country’s complex and confounding nature. Which event tells us most about that nation’s future course?

I believe Americans and their religious leaders can help shape the answer to this question by establishing relationships with moderate religious leaders in the Islamic Republic. I recently visited Tehran with three other leaders in the Episcopal Church, a trip that deepened my belief that the future of our world hinges on fostering respect and cooperation among the three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Over the course of three days in Tehran, we engaged in intense mutual scrutiny. In candid conversations with top religious and political leaders, we discussed the war in Iraq, the unhelpful rhetoric of both of our presidents, the controversy surrounding Iran’s nuclear program, and our mutual fears over the volatility of the Middle East. We did not leave these meetings having come to agreement on all of the political issues that divide our two countries, but with the sense that our conversations had been fruitful and friendly, and that we should explore moving beyond dialog and into true partnership.

The Rt. Rev John Bryson Chane is the Episcopal bishop of Washington. He traveled to Iran with the Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalen, bishop of the Episcopal Church’s convocation in Europe, Canon John L. Peterson, director the Cathedral College’s Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation, and Evan Anderson, the center’s deputy director.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus