MCC cosponsors dialogue with Ahmadinejadby Mennonite Central Commitee
NEW YORK—About 300 international religious and political figures, including Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, attended a dialogue at a Manhattan hotel Sept. 25 to discuss the role of religion in responding to global challenges and building peace and understanding among societies.
Speakers included President Ahmadinejad, the Rev. Kjell Bondevik, former prime minister of Norway, and the Rev. Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, president of the United Nations General Assembly.
The dialogue, which followed a meal, was sponsored by American Friends Service Committee, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), Quaker United Nations Office, Religions for Peace and World Council of Churches in consultation with the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations.
Arli Klassen, executive director of MCC, gave welcoming remarks on behalf of the sponsoring organizations. She lit an oil lamp as a symbol of faith and invited participants to reflect on peacemaking from their own faith perspectives.
“As a Christian, I believe we are following Jesus Christ’s example and his teaching as we eat together and hold this dialogue despite our many differences,” Klassen said.
Klassen noted several areas of high tension in relations between Iran, the United States and other nations. Addressing President Ahmadinejad, Klassen raised concerns about his statements on the Holocaust and Israel, Iran’s nuclear program and religious freedom in Iran.
“We ask you to find a way within your own country to allow for religious diversity and to allow people to make their own choices as to which religion they will follow,” Klassen said.
The theme of the dialogue was “Has not one God created us? The significance of religious contributions to peace.” A series of panelists shared Jewish, Muslim and Christian perspectives on addressing poverty, injustice, environmental degradation and war.
Robert J. Suderman, general secretary of Mennonite Church Canada, was among several Canadians who attended the dialogue. “It was a valuable thing in terms of the objectives, which was to nurture peace by fostering understanding and human relationships,” he said.
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