World Bulletin/News Desk
Iran is reopening the gates to delegations from the US religious community as part of a broader outreach meant to smooth the way for a nuclear agreement and improve relations with the United States, Al Monitor reports.
Barbara Slavin reports that since March, three major faith-related US delegations have visited the Islamic Republic of Iran for meetings with senior Shiite Muslim theologians and government officials:
"A Roman Catholic group, led by Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, drafted a joint declaration against the “production, stockpiling, use and threat to use weapons of mass destruction” that was signed by Pates, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick — the retired archbishop of Washington — and two Iranians, including Ayatollah Ali-Reza A’arafi, a senior member of the Supreme Council of the Society of Qom Seminary Scholars."
In Iran for six days in March, the six-member US group also met Ayatollah Morteza Moghtadaei, a member of the Assembly of Experts, which chooses Iran’s supreme leader, and had dinner with Ayatollah Javad Shahristani, Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani’s representative in Qom. In May, a group of American Catholics, Protestants and a Sunni Muslim spent a week in Iran and attended a conference in Qom on confronting religious extremism.
More recently in June, two dozen Mennonites spent three weeks in Iran — twice as large as previous groups from this faith that have gotten permission to visit the Islamic republic in the past.
According to the report, even though senior US officials are now speaking or otherwise interacting with Iranian officials on a daily basis to try to resolve the nuclear dispute, people-to-people dialogue is crucial to increase knowledge of Iran by Americans and lay the basis for a wider rapprochement, the US visitors to Iran said.Last Mod: 30 Haziran 2014, 15:08