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Expression of concern at recent statements by Iranian President

03 November 2005

Letter to H.E. Mr Mohammad Reza Alborzi, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of
Iran to the United Nations in Geneva, 3 November, 2005


Your Excellency,

We send you this letter with greetings from the headquarters of the World
Council of Churches in Geneva.

We write as an expression of our deep and long-standing concern for the resolution
of conflicts that divide the nations in the Middle East and oppress the peoples
of the region.

This message comes to you also because of concerns we share with the people
of Iran, namely, that there be increased dialogue between civilizations and between
religions, and particularly to establish stronger relationships between Islam and
Christianity. In this regard, through a series of seminars held alternately in Teheran
and Geneva since 1995, the World Council of Churches has been privileged to
foster contact and engagement between Iranian Islamic leaders and scholars and
representatives of WCC member churches and staff. These encounters revealed a
genuine desire for dialogue and aroused great interest on both sides, culminating
in a visit of the Iranian President, His Excellency Mohammed Khatami, to
the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva in December 2003.

On that occasion, President Khatami noted that "the future of religion will
depend (…) on mutual comprehension and openness" and that "dialogue is the
foundation which allows for unity in diversity". In response, the Rev. Dr Konrad
Raiser, my predecessor here as General Secretary, affirmed a central tenet of WCC
policy: that WCC member churches "reject the tendency, not uncommon in many
Western countries, to perceive Muslims as a threat and to portray Islam and some
Islamic nations in negative terms". Also receiving President Khatami here on that
occasion was the Prime Minister of Norway, Kjell Magne Bondevik. Mr Bondevik,
who is an ordained Christian minister, said, "Those who have a strong belief can
better understand others with strong belief (….) In many conflicts religion is considered
to be part of the problem. I uphold the idea that religion should be seen
as part of the solution."

Given this positive link to the people of Iran and reflecting also the decadeslong
commitment of the World Council of Churches to a just, comprehensive and
lasting peace in the Middle East based on the application of international law, the
United Nations Charter and UN Security Council resolutions, we would like to
register with you, Mr Ambassador, our grave concern at the recent statements by
the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmedinejad,
which called for one of the states of the region, Israel, to be "wiped off the map".

We are convinced that the way to peace in the region's most intractable conflict
- that involving the state of Israel and its occupation of Palestinian territory - is
to be found in determined and equitable negotiations between the two parties in
conflict on the basis of UN resolutions and in including the stringent international
guarantees missing from previous peace initiatives. As part of that process
Israel must withdraw from the territories occupied in the 1967 war and has the
right to exist within internationally recognized and secure borders.

The state of Israel was created as a result of a UN resolution. It is therefore the
responsibility of all UN members to ensure a peaceful solution to the conflict
between Israel and Arab states.

We offer this communication to you and ask that you convey it to your government.
It reflects our on-going efforts to advance the international rule of law in the
region, to achieve the peaceful removal of long-standing threats to the security and
well-being of the peoples of the region, and to continue the spirit of dialogue between
two religions that hold true peace to be among God's greatest blessings.

Yours sincerely,

Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia
General Secretary