Filed under: Iran
Dear President Mahmoud Ahmadiniejad
Your encouraging congratulatory letter to the new American President included wise words, “.. the chances that God gives to his subjects pass swiftly. They can be used for the perfection of humanity and to the benefit of nations…” I write to you today as an American citizen who has worked for a world of peace with justice for 40 years. I know that millions of Americans will watch for words and actions that can lead to a restoration of wholeness and boundless respect that the peoples of our two nations deserve.
As a child of a Christian home my weekly Bible study included the story of great Persian leader, Cyrus the Great, whose generous treatment of oppressed peoples in the empire assembled under his guidance was a matter of great interest and curiosity to me. His empire (583 BC and following) signalled real change. It was among the first in history where enslaved peoples were restored to honour and fairness. He instituted kindness as a replacement for cruelty in the new political order. The change he initiated was a change that peoples all over the modern world can still believe in. Your predecessor’s empire reached from the lands near the Mediterranean where Greek influence was strong through Babylonia of modern day Iraq and far to the east into Central Asia and the Indus Valley where Pakistan is found on the modern map.
Mr. President I know that the blood of Cyrus the Great continues to flow in the family lines of the people of Persia. I know that his story provides inspiration to the great Persian people of modern day Iran where new efforts have been under way for the last 60 years to perfect a vision that restores honour and fairness to the lands of contemporary Persia.
Mr. President I also know that the state craft of Cyrus the Great that introduced compassion and fairness to the affairs of the political order has spread beyond the borders of Persia into the farmlands and industrial centers of my own nation. Much remains to be perfected. Our new President has been formed by the threads of this legacy. I believe openings for authentic reconciliation and the just treatment of oppressed people and prisoners are within grasp. We can now reach beyond the limitations we have placed upon ourselves arising from the myths of our own political culture.
For those of us who care deeply about peace among the peoples of the world, your letter to President Bush May 8, 2006 provides a thoughtful outline that can inspire and encourage. You wrote,
“The people will scrutinize our presidencies.
“Did we manage to bring peace, security and prosperity for the people or insecurity and unemployment?
“Did we intend to establish justice, or just support especial interest groups, and by forcing many people to live in poverty and hardship, make a few people rich and powerful – thus trading the approval of the people and the Almighty with theirs’?
“Did we defend the rights of the underprivileged or ignore them?
“Did we defend the rights of all people around the world or impose wars on them, interfered illegally in their affairs, established hellish prisons and incarcerated some of them?
“Did we bring the world peace and security or raise the spectre of intimidation and threats?
“Did we tell the truth to our nation and others around the world or present an inverted version of it?
“Were we on the side of people or the occupiers and oppressors?
“Did our administrations set out to promote rational behaviour, logic, ethics, peace, fulfilling obligations, justice, service to the people, prosperity, progress and respect for human dignity or the force of guns, intimidation, insecurity, disregard for the people, delaying the progress and excellence of other nations, and trample on people’s rights?
“And finally, they will judge us on whether we remained true to our oath of office – to serve the people, which is our main task, and the traditions of the prophets – or not?”
Mr President Ahmadiniejad, the memories and latent goodness of both nations remained stalled in a long remembered 1950s era overthrow of the Iranian government by a hyperactive US CIA and the 1979 hostage taking at the US embassy in Tehran. This has led to decades long policy of sanctions directed at Iran and more recently concerns over the use of nuclear technology. We all must do better. Cyrus the Great calls out to us from the choir of history to rise from the dungeons of blame and the politics of shame to a new era of honesty and respect.
The time has arrived for my nation to reach deep into its better character where the strands of dignified relationships between nations have long been lodged to bring a new day. I believe there is no better time than now for my nation to signal Iran and the entire world that fresh more comprehensive nuclear controls and nuclear disarmament be developed for the entire world. For this to happen President elect Obama will need to take unprecedented actions to demonstrate to you and me that the voice and character of peace long latent in our people will blossom into effective policies that forever takes nuclear arms out of the affairs of the nations of the earth. It is our work, the people of peace to insist that this happens. We will do that. Your words encourage us to do so.
Mr. President we need not be held hostage to policies of sanctions, arms, and smarter weapons. We are inspired by Cyrus the Great and insist that there is a better course for our peoples. I believe that generosity, justice and authentic reconciliation can transform our lives and our cultures of conflict. We thank you for reminding us of so many of our core convictions as we seek to emulate the call of the prophets.
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