Christian Media Analyst
PO Box 35040
Boston, MA 02135-0001
When it comes to rehabilitating his image in the United States, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can count on the Mennonite Central Committee for assistance.
The organization has sponsored two dinners and an interfaith pilgrimage to Tehran during which Christian leaders have met with the Iranian President and offered kind words about the man afterwards.
"We have no plans to issue a statement."
When asked in subsequent communications (email and a voice message) why the MCC had nothing to say, Nyce reiterated in an email that the MCC has "no plans to issue a statement."
The MCC's silence about the events in Iran is remarkable given its highly visible campaign to legitimize Ahmadinejad in the U.S. This campaign began in February 2007 when the MCC organized a meeting of Christian leaders with the Iranian President in Teheran. The delegation held a press conference in Washington, D.C. upon its return to the U.S. Christian leaders reportedly challenged Ahmadinejad about his anti-Semitic statements, but their complaints had little apparent effect. Four days after the delegation's meeting Ahmadinejad appeared in Sudan, where according to Islamic Republic News Agency (Iran's official news service), he said "Zionists are the true manifestation of Satan."
In September 2007, the MCC organized an ecumenical dinner attended by Ahmadinejad and numerous Christian leaders in New York City.
The leaders met with the Iranian president after he addressed the United Nations on September 26, 2007. According to The New York Times, Albert Lobe, executive director of the Mennonite Central committee told Ahmadinejad "We meant to extend to you the hospitality which a head of state deserves."
Lobe's obsequiousness was apparently a response to the treatment Ahmadinejad received at Columbia University on Sept. 24, when the school's president Lee Bollinger called him "a petty and cruel dictator."
In addition to sponsoring the two dinners and interfaith pilgrimage mentioned above, the Mennonite Central Committee has had multiple face-to-face contacts with scholars from the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute (IKERI) located on
According to a report in the The Star, a May 2007 meeting between scholars from the institute and Mennonite scholars at the
"We're not against dialogue but the Mennonites are naïve if they think they can open one with these people," said Haideh Moghissi, a
sociologists who with 17 others signed a protest letter sent to the university. York UniversityShe says Mesbah-Yazdi and his followers are "at the forefront of oppression in ," responsible for silencing all intellectuals who disagree with the regime. Iran"It hurts to know that while people are losing their lives over there, some people are opening the door to 'dialogue' over here. Why doesn't the institute open it back there?"
The Star also reports that Mesbah-Yazdi "is a strong advocate of the death penalty, public flogging and the use of suicide bombers against "enemies of Islam."
"He is the most dangerous mullah in
," says Saeed Rahnema, director of York University School of Public Policy and Administration, who spearheaded the protest. Iran
Despite complaints from Iranian dissidents about the meeting in 2007, the MCC sponsored another dialogue with scholars from IKERI in
According to an article about the most recent meeting published on the website of
The article also states that at the conference's end, "the Mennonite delegation expressed its gratitude to IKERI for unsurpassed hospitality, delicious meals, comfortable accommodations, and excellent conference meeting space."
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