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NCC among U.S. and Iranian religious leaders discussing peace

Tehran, Iran, February 20, 2007 –  Religious leaders from the U.S. and Iran met here today to discuss the importance of faith groups finding common ground in peacemaking, particularly in light of the growing political tensions between the U.S. and Iran. 

The NCC is represented on the delegation by the Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, associate general secretary for interfaith relations.

The three-hour meeting – called Quest for Truth – was held in Tehran and sponsored by the Islamic Culture and Religion Organization. It was one of a weeklong series of meetings a delegation of U.S. religious leaders is holding with Iranian religious leaders – both Christian and Muslim--as well as political leaders in Iran.

The delegation arrived early Monday, Feb. 19 and has since met with the Archbishop of the Armenian Church in Iran and the Tehran-based Ayatollah who leads Friday prayers in Tehran and is a member of the Iranian Council of Experts.

The group is expected to meet with others Iranian leaders during the next few days, including Iranian President Ahmadinejad. Their goal is to work with religious leaders in the U.S. and Iran to help ease tensions.

At Tuesday's meeting, the presentations offered by religious leaders and scholars on both sides agreed that although dialogue is important, now is the time for action.

"We need to go beyond dialogue and establish tangible results," said Iranian Ayatollah Dr. Monhaghegh Damad of Shahid Behesti University in Tehran. “We need to hold dialogue to eliminate ambiguities and misunderstandings between religions that emerge once in a while and work through them to establish peace."

"Interfaith dialogue strengthens our own theology," said the NCC's Dr. Premawardhana. "This is a new paradigm that has arrived out of many years of engaging in dialogue," he said.

"Peace is the key teaching of Christianity and Islam and this will be realized in our lives," said Archbishop Sabu Sarkission of the Armenian Orthodox church in Iran. "This is the product of dialogue."

The 13-member U.S. religious leaders group represents church members from the Mennonite, Quaker, Episcopal, Catholic and United Methodist churches.

NCC News contact:  Dan Webster, 212.870.2252, .
Mennonite Central Committee contact:  Larry Guengerich, 717.859.1152 ext. 282, .

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