A Pax on Both Our Houses: Seeking Peace With Iran

The Shalom Center began in November 2007 to bring together a broad coalition of religious leaders and enough money to publish a call for peace with Iran in the Des Moines (Iowa) Register shortly before the presidential primary there, and to win coverage of that effort in the NY Times. In May 2008, religious leaders in Columbus Ohio also published the ad there. Once again within the Bush-Cheney Administration and in the camp of one presidential candidate, some are encouraging talk about initiating or supporting a military attack on Iran. So once again, opposition counts. Here is the statement:



We -- leaders, teachers, and practitioners of many communities of faith and ethics--- honor and celebrate the democratic roots of the United States and our people's long struggle toward justice, equality, and peace.

And therefore we remember with indignation and sorrow –

· the action of the Government of the United States in 1953 to overthrow the democratically elected government of Iran,

· and in 2003 the refusal of the US government even to consider a proposal from Iran's leadership to resolve all disputes, such as Iran's aid to Hezbollah, the nuclear issue, and US sanctions against Iran.

And today we are appalled by threats from parts of the US government to make war against Iran.

We honor and celebrate the ancient history of Iran and its contributions to world civilization, and the desire of most Iranians for peace and justice.

And therefore we are appalled by the desecration of truth and human history, the corruption of Iranian honor and decency, and the rejection of international law expressed by some few Iranian leaders in questioning the historical truth of the Nazi Holocaust and the legitimacy of the State of Israel under international law.

We distinguish such bitter attacks and threats from compassionate concern we share with most Iranians for the right of the Palestinian people to live in a state of their own, in peace and unafraid, alongside an Israel that is at peace and unafraid.

If the US government were to carry out threats of war against Iran, that war would:

Violate every teaching of the great teachers of all our faiths;

Violate international law and the UN Charter;

Pile more deaths of Iranians and Americans upon the lost lives already brought on by the Iraq War;

Infuriate and alienate those among the Iranian people who now seek peace and reconciliation;

Worsen Americans' demoralization by the Iraq War and its pre-emption of resources to meet urgent civilian needs;

Further threaten domestic civil liberties and human rights, in both the US and Iran;

Risk more violence in the entire region from Afghanistan to Israel, Palestine, and beyond.

Risk plunging the whole world into an unutterably bloody war between Islam and the West.

This must not happen.

We call upon the Government of the United States to end all actions, threats, plans, or support for war against Iran.

We call upon the Supreme Religious Authorities of Iran to end all threats against the existence of Israel and all denials of the historical truth of the Nazi Holocaust; to renew their explicit prohibition of any effort to seek nuclear weapons as a violation of Islamic teachings, and; to make clear that Iran will not support violence against civilians by its own or other forces.

We call upon the governments of both nations at once to open direct talks on all issues of mutual concern.

And we call upon the American government to move forward in the spirit of humility and generosity, rather than arrogance and domination, toward a broad peace settlement in the entire Middle East, including an end to the occupation of Iraq, peace between Israel and Palestine, and a major international effort to protect human rights and promote grass-roots economic development in the region.

We call upon the peoples of the world to support this call, for the sake of conscience and survival.

Initiating signers (affiliation for identification only, except where noted otherwise with a *):

Imam Mahdi Bray, Exec Dir, on behalf of *Muslim American
Society Freedom Foundation.
Rev. Tony Campolo, Ph.D., Eastern University
Sister Joan Chittister, OSB, director, on behalf of
* Benetvision
Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Rector, American Jewish University
Rev. Bob Edgar, President & CEO, Common Cause
Mark C. Johnson, Exec Dir, on behalf of *Fellowship of
Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk ,Presbyterian Church
Deb Kolodny, Exec Dir, on behalf of *ALEPH: Alliance for
Jewish Renewal
Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor of Tikkun, on behalf of the
*Network of Spiritual Progressives
Ingrid Mattson, President, on behalf of *Islamic Society of
North America
Sheila Musaji, Editor, The American Muslim
Jim Rice, Editor, Sojourners magazine
Rabbi Brant Rosen, past president, Reconstructionist
Rabbinical Assn.
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
Rabbi Gerald Serotta, chair, Rabbis for Human Rights
/North America
Rev. William G. Sinkford, President, on behalf of *Unitarian
Universalist Association
John H. Thomas, General Minister and President, United
Church of Christ
Rick Ufford-Chase, Executive Director, on behalf of the
*Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director, on behalf of *The Shalom
Jim Winkler, General Secretary, Genl Board of Church and
Society, United Methodist Church
Bishop Gabino Zavala, Pres. Pax Christi USA, & Aux.
Bishop, Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Pax Christi, St. Jude
Our Lady of Lourdes Pax Christi

Abdul Cader Asmal Islamic Council of New England
Addison Bross Lehigh University acb2@lehigh.edu
Allan Lindrup Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice
The Rev. Dr. Allie Perry Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice
Anita Farber-Robinson Unitarian Universalist, American Baptist
Anna Boekstegen akboekstegen@yahoo.com
Anne Mulderry Sept 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
Asnah Perlman
Barbara Ditommaso Commission on Peace and Justice, Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany NY
Barbara Troxell Retired clergy, United Methodist Church
Bernie Meyer
Bill & Tess Hageman Pax Christi, Sonoma County
Cathy Zheutlin P'nai Or
Rabbi Chaim Leib Schneider Chadeish Yameinu Jewish Renewal Community
Charlie Roemer
Rabbi Chava Bahle
Dale & Beulah Swartzendruber Mennonite
Daniel Bort The First Church of Christ, Scientist
David & Cora Bartemes
Rabbi David Shneyer President, Ohala; Director, Am Kolel
Debby Kern Unitarian Fellowship of West Chester
Dolores Taller
Douglas Renick Haydenville Congregational Church, UCC
Dr. & Mrs. John Elder
Elizabeth Letzler
Cantor Eric Schulmiller Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore
Gary Ferdman
Rabbi Gerald Serotta
Gordon Shull Presbyterian
H. Berrien Zettler
Rev. Harold A. Jackson, Jr
J. William Bircher
Jamie Hamilton Exeter Academy
Jean Maryborn Sandpoint Friends Meeting
Jeanette Hyde Democratic Party
Jeffrey Dekro
Jeffrey Roth
Jerome & Roslyn Grossman
Sister Joan Murnaw Leadership Council of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Rev John Buehrens First Parish in Needham, UU
John Hart, Ph D Boston University
Joseph W. Birtcher
Rev. Kate Stevens United Church of Christ
Rev. Kathryn Johnson Methodist Federation for Social Action
Leonard Bjorkman Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
Lillian Sigal Mishkan Shalom, Philadelphia Lilsigal@verizon.net
Linda Maloney St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, Enosburg Falls, VT lmmaloney@csbsju.edu
Margaret Mallgren
Marie Conn Chestnut Hill College
Marilyn Condon
Marilyn S. Garrett
Mark E. Johnson Fellowship of Reconciliation
Sister Megan Rice Nevada Desert Experience
Mei Mei Miriam Sanford
Melinda Lehrer
Michael Weinberg
Rabbi Michael Zimmerman Congregation Kehillat Israel, Lansing, Michigan
Mike Ghouse President, Foundation for Pluralism
Mirabel Deming United Methodist
Mitchell Kamen
Neil Comess-Daniels Beth Shir-Sholom
Nina Grey First Unitarian Church of Chicago r
Rabbi Paul Joseph
Rabbi Philip Jay Bentley Jewish Peace Fellowship
Phyllis Albritton Elder, Presbyterian Church USA
Polly Ely
Rani Dalgin
Ray & Pat Foret
Regina Kay
Rev. Rich Broderick Presbyter Diocese of Albany, NY
Rivko Knox Ruach Hamidbar
Sallie & Alan Gratch Women's Founders Collective
Sara Schaffzin Social Action Committee, Tikkun v'Or/Ithaca Reform Temple, Ithaca NY
Sheila Musaji The American Muslim magazine
Rabbi Sheila Weinberg
Steve Clemons Community of St. Martin
Cantor Steven Puzarne Pilgrimage of Peace
Wendy Kohli Fairfield University and P'nai Shore
William Koenig Presbyterian Church USA
William Savedoff Social Insight
William Slavick Coordinator, Pax Christi Maine
The Rev. Dr. Wilson Yates Prof Emeritus United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities

We at The Shalom Center seek to build this peacemaking position on Iran through multireligious connection for three reasons:

Philosophically, to reinforce those Jewish, Christian, and Muslim believers who affirm that the Divine Unity is at the root of the other traditions (as against those in each of those faith communities who derogate and denigrate the others as false religions).

Ethically, to awaken the "dozing giant" of American public opinion – the religious communities – that have been neither totally asleep nor totally awake in regard to the Iraq War. These communities could make an enormous difference in setting the general public tone in which the election campaign takes place, though of course The Shalom Center and its religious partners will not support or oppose candidates.

Politically, we believe this three-cornered alliance is necessary: --

To strengthen those mainstream Christians who are concerned about charges of anti-Semitism if they deviate from policies held by major Jewish institutions, by providing them with allies who are respected Jewish moral authorities presentin views authentiocally rooted in jewish values and wisdom;

To strengthen those Muslims who are concerned about charges of anti-patriotism if they oppose US policies hostile to Islam, by providing them with Christian and Jewish allies;

To strengthen progressive Jews by helping them to connect with each other and especially with Jews who feel unrepresented by their official institutions on these issues.

Background of this campaign

The Shalom Center began walking this path in 2002 by bringing together a group of about 20 Jews, Muslims, and Christians who held important mid-level positions in their religious communities for a four-day intensive retreat. The group named itself The Tent of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah and decided to keep meeting. It has met once or twice a year since then.

Out of the group emerged these specific acts for peacemaking and changing US public opinion:

• A tri-authored book, THE TENT OF ABRAHAM: Stories of Hope and Peace for Jews, Christians, and Muslims (Beacon, 2006) that is now being used by thousands of students in adult-study groups

• A multireligious call for peacemaking in the broader Middle East (the "Abrahamic region" from Iraq to Israel/ Palestine and Saudi Arabia) that was published as a full-page ad in the NY Times

• A call to the three Abrahamic communities throughout the US to share celebrations of the confluent sacred times in 2005, 2006, and 2007 in which Ramadan coincided with the Jewish High Holy Days and with the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi and Worldwide Communion Sunday, a call observed by hundreds of American communities (and some elsewhere)

• In 2007, organizing Jews and Christians in hundreds of American communities to join Muslims in fasting for one day of Ramadan, as an act to seek an end to the US occupation of Iraq.

• In addition to these specific actions and events, the Tent of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah nurtured ongoing relationships among its members across formal religious lines, with social public and political effects. Thus Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of The Shalom Center and a Tent participant, has as a result of these connections been involved in several high-visibility affirmations of the legitimacy of Muslim organizations like ISNA (the Islamic Society of North America) and CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) when they were under McCarthyist attack. Rabbi Waskow and (Tent member) Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid of a Harlem mosque are participating together in a major assemblage at the Phillips Exeter academy, arranged by a member of its faculty who is a member of the Tent. And so forth.

To move forward on this path, The Shalom Center decided to undertake a pubic-education process to involve (a) national religious leaders, (b) grass-roots or "grass-tops" religious community leaders, (c) the general public, and (d) a more activist self-selected network -- in a peace-with-Iran campaign.