Thursday, November 08, 2007

Friends of Mahmoud

The Iranian president gets a warm reception from the religious left.

From "Friends of Mahmoud" by Mark D. Tooley, posted 10/11/07 at The Daily Standard

NOT ALL OF Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's encounters in New York during his recent trip were testy. The Shiite theocrat had what the New York Times called a "warm, even friendly exchange" with 150 church officials at the United Methodist Women's Church Center for the United Nations.

One sponsor, the Mennonite Central Committee, called the gathering a "time of dialogue and prayerful reflection among the children of Abraham." A Mennonite official further explained that "mutual respect and graciousness in this conversation blunts the demonization which is part of the current rhetoric of both governments."

The meeting is the third between Ahmadinejad and his new church friends. Forty five of them had met the Iranian during his last New York visit a year ago. And 13 church officials saw him in Iran in February.

Seemingly, the church officials are fascinated and perplexed by the chief of Iran's Islamist police state. Unlike most of them, he has uncompromising theological views, especially about the end-times, about which he shares freely. Perhaps the apocalyptic dogma is bracing to these liberal religionists, who might be inwardly bored with their own mantras about endless tolerance.

"We haven't reached the point of hard truth-telling," explained United Methodist Women's Division chief Harriet Jane Olson, as reported in her news release. "But this dialogue may help to de-escalate the language of hostility, which is a necessary part of building bridges."

...Official co-sponsors of this latest bridge building included Jim Wallis' Sojourners, the World Council of Churches, Pax Christi, the Church of the Brethren, and the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers). But the assembled church officials came from a much larger swatch of Mainline Protestants, Catholics, and liberal evangelicals. Apparently Jews were invited but none were willing to participate.

...Stassen, a prominent voice on the Evangelical left and a critic of U.S. war policies, is reportedly preparing a statement from liberal evangelicals that will advocate broader U.S. dialogue with Iran. Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad left the church meeting with some gifts. A Mennonite official presented him with a children's book called "Let's Plant a Garden," and also a dove lapel pin, as an encouragement for him to "work for peace."

But Ahmadinejad left the United Methodist Women's Church Center at the United Nations with much more than a book and a pin. He knows he has reliable American friends who will oppose any strong policies aimed at his regime, while expressing limited concern about his intemperate plans towards the United States and Israel.

Read the whole article.