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Although not specifically mentioned in their letter, the Christian Leaders for a Nuclear Iran are certainly aware of the Iranian theocracy’s persecution of their nation’s small but vibrant Christian minority, which numbers about 200,000. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) reported early last month that Iran had incarcerated as many as 70 Christians, both evangelical and Armenian, since Christmas. One Iranian official reportedly denounced them as “parasites” and claimed they were British agents.
Concerns about the Iranian mullahs’ persecution of fellow Christian believers do not typically excite distress by the Religious Left in America, much less the strategic threat that a nuclear Iran would pose to all its neighbors, including Iran, and ultimately the U.S. Several years ago, Jim Wallis’ Sojourners, along with the United Methodist lobby office, the Episcopal Church, and the National Council of Churches, organized a “Words Not War with Iran” campaign to forestall any decisive U.S. supported action to prevent Iranian nukes. “Words Not War with Iran” benignly portrayed the situation as a “conflict” between t he U.S. and Iran that potentially could be ameliorated through the mediation of noble pacifist religious groups like themselves. They simplistically portrayed the choices as U.S. initiated war on Iran versus “dialogue” and “direct engagement” with Iran’s supposedly reasonable theocrats. Although they briefly acknowledged that Iranian nuclear weapons would be undesirable, though not necessarily worse than U.S. nukes, they did not articulate nukes in the hands of crazed Shiite theocrats a uniquely disturbing. They did seem to admit that Iran supports terrorism but did not dwell on it as a major concern. And they did not elaborate on 32 years of police state oppression in Iran under the mullahs. Instead, they cited their own friendly visits to Iran as showcases of Iranian goodwill. They also urged supporters to light oil lamps in their homes in solidarity with the cause of peace with Iran.
This “Words Not War with Iran” coalition seems now mostly to be dormant, since the coalition was presumably less perturbed about the possibility of U.S. actions under the Obama Administration. But the coalition’s study materials helpfully remain on Jim Wallis’s Sojourners website. Presumably the coalition will reactivate when and if the current Administration is perceived to become overly bellicose towards the Iranian mullahs and their nuclear aspirations.
So “Christian Leaders for a Nuclear Free Iran” seems to be the only U.S. religious voice now willing to recognize Iran’s grim reality and urge meaningful action, hopefully making war unnecessary. Meanwhile, the Religious Left will remain mostly silent about Iran and its potential nukes until it becomes alarmed about possible U.S. actions.
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