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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dining With Evil

Tonight a number of Christian organizations will be attending a Ramadan dinner whose guests include Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Some are incensed:

Ahmadinejad is a menace to freedom-loving people the world over, and the sight of religious groups embracing him is nauseating," Donohue told UPI. "The Catholic League is proud to take part in this rally, and we encourage people of all religious groups to have a contingent represent them on Thursday evening."

The Christian groups behind the event to honor Ahmadinejad are the American Friends Service Committee, Mennonite Central Committee, Quaker United Nations Office, Religions for Peace and the World Council of Churches, UPI reported.


Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America, encouraged people to protest the event.

"As if beating, imprisoning and killing women, Christians and other Iranians is not enough, Iranian leaders' thirst for death spills over its borders to kill and wound American military and innocent civilians in Iraq," she said.

"Ahmadinejad has grabbed the baton of his genocidal predecessors to threaten the extinction of the Jewish people and their homeland Israel. This is history repeating itself, proving again that evil exists and there is never a lack of 'useful idiots' to support the embodiment of evil."

Jesus himself dined with dubious sorts - but in what context? For those of you who brought your Bibles, turn to Matthew 9:10-12:

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

How are these organizations acting as physician to a morally sick Iranian government that seeks to destroy Israel, persecutes its citizens (especially women and non-Muslims), and that wages war against the United States through guerilla forces in Iraq and, every great once in a while during this century and the previous one, through Hezbollah?

Here is an official statement about the event by Mary Ellen McNish, General Secretary of the American Friends Service Committee. Read it and point out where you see the physician at work. I am intrigued by this portion (emphasis added):

A major purpose [of the dinner] is to continue dialogue with the Iranian people and their president.

Iran has a massive dissident population, especially among its youth. Who at the dinner represents the dissidents?

The Mennonite Central Committee statement is here. Exectuive director Arli Klassen appears to realize that Iran is our enemy:

"As Christians, we take Jesus' Sermon on the Mount very seriously and say 'Love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you,'" Klassen said. "Right now the U.S. and Iran are defining each other as enemies and so, as Christians, we are trying to promote dialogue, understanding and bridge-building, rather than leading to war."

I will nitpick one portion of this - does Iran as a whole, or just its government, define the United States as an enemy? Has MCC met with its dissidents population in order to foster greater understanding of Iranian culture?

This catches my eye:

"Many persons around the world have interpreted your public rhetoric as a threat to destroy the state of Israel," said Ron Flaming, MCC's director of international programs, in a September 2007 meeting with President Ahmadinejad.

"This does not match what some of us have heard you say privately, where you stated that there is not a military solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict," Flaming said. "If it is not your intention to destroy Israel, for the sake of understanding, for the sake of peace, for the sake of a bridge, we urge you to clearly and publicly say so."

Has it not occurred to you that the president of a totalitarian government might be conning you, Ron? Not having Ahmadinejad's exact words, I cannot assess them. But this quote from a 2006 appearance in Malaysia, seems pretty clear:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday the solution to the Middle East crisis is to destroy Israel. In a speech during an emergency meeting of Muslim leaders, Ahmadinejad also called for an immediate halt to fighting in Lebanon between Israel and the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah.

"Although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage an immediate cease-fire must be implemented," he said.

Perhaps Flaming is misinterpreting calls for short-term ceasefires with a desire for a long-term plan that allows Israel to continue to exist? I wasn't listening in on Flamong's conversations, so I don't know what he heard.

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