Christian, Muslim leaders issue statement regarding hikers imprisoned in Iran
Washington, D.C. September 19, 2011
Christian and Muslim leaders returned from a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad where they requested the release of U.S. hikers, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, currently imprisoned in Iran. Originally, Bauer and Fattal were accompanied by Sarah Shourd, when the three were arrested on charges they crossed the Iranian border. On September 14, 2010, Sarah Shourd was granted a humanitarian release. Now, U.S. religious leaders and officials are hoping President Ahmadinejad will grant the same humanitarian release to Bauer and Fattal. Both were tried in Iranian court, convicted of illegal entry and espionage and on August 20, 2011 were sentenced to eight years in prison The delegation is from the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and included CAIR executive director Nihad Awad, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the Right Rev. John Bryson Chase, and former Senator Larry Shaw.
President Ahmadinejad invited the Christian Muslim delegation to Iran to discuss the issue. The team arrived on September 12, 2011. The delegation released a statement on September 19, 2011 that reads in part, “The delegation met Saturday with representatives of the Iranian Foreign Ministry and spent over an hour with President Ahmadinejad and other senior government officials. They were informed that their work prior to this trip and during their stay in Iran was extremely helpful and important in the decision to release the hikers.
President Ahmadinejad, while in conversation with members of the delegation, suggested the formation of a bilateral interfaith committee of Iranian and U.S. religious leaders and scholars to begin the much needed work of theological and humanitarian bridge-building between the two countries, engaging the common element of compassion that is part of the theological principles of both Christianity and Islam.
Prior to the meeting with the Deputy Foreign Minister and the President, the delegation met with family members of Iranian citizens who are being held in U.S. prisons.”
The statement continues, “The delegation’s visit to Iran was an opportunity to let Josh and Shane know through the delegation members’ many meetings with Iranian authorities over the past two years that their release from prison was imminent and that they would be home soon.
Based on their visit, delegation members stated that they would raise the issue of detained Iranian citizens with appropriate U.S. government officials with the hope that these conversations will address the circumstances of Iranian detainees in a similar spirit of compassion.
“We hope that this initiative becomes a positive example of religious public diplomacy that shows how nations and cultures can move away from confrontation and embrace cooperation and mutual understanding,” a member of the delegation said. “We wish to express our gratitude for the hospitality and openness shown to our delegation by the Iranian government during our visit.”