NOT ALL OF Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's encounters in New York during his recent trip were testy. The Shiite theocrat had what the New York Times called a "warm, even friendly exchange" with 150 church officials at the United Methodist Women's Church Center for the United Nations.I knew a Communist once in the Merchant Marine who sailed on ships organized by the Union to bring relief supplies to the Soviet Union. He was watching the ship unload in Odessa and watched the guards shoot dead a kid trying to sneak inside the ship by climbing the anchor's ropes.
One sponsor, the Mennonite Central Committee, called the gathering a "time of dialogue and prayerful reflection among the children of Abraham." A Mennonite official further explained that "mutual respect and graciousness in this conversation blunts the demonization which is part of the current rhetoric of both governments."
The meeting is the third between Ahmadinejad and his new church friends. Forty five of them had met the Iranian during his last New York visit a year ago. And 13 church officials saw him in Iran in February.
Seemingly, the church officials are fascinated and perplexed by the chief of Iran's Islamist police state. Unlike most of them, he has uncompromising theological views, especially about the end-times, about which he shares freely. Perhaps the apocalyptic dogma is bracing to these liberal religionists, who might be inwardly bored with their own mantras about endless tolerance.
"We haven't reached the point of hard truth-telling," explained United Methodist Women's Division chief Harriet Jane Olson, as reported in her news release. "But this dialogue may help to de-escalate the language of hostility, which is a necessary part of building bridges."
He quite the Party soon after and became a Mennonite in the West Burbs. I wonder what he would have thought of this story.