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Detroit area faith community calls for peace in Iran


Return to diplomacy needed to avert needless war

Faith leaders from across metro-Detroit gathered Thursday in the Islamic House of Wisdom to call for calm in the face of escalating tensions between Iran and the United States following a drone attack that killed an Iranian general and a missile attack on an Iraqi air base housing American troops. The Christian and Muslim clerics are praying for a diplomatic solution that will prevent further bloodshed.


“Diplomacy and dialogue was working with Iran,” said Imam Mohammed Ali Elahi, whose mosque hosted the event. “Nuclear negotiations united America and the world’s biggest powers and promised peace in the region. But out of a dislike for President Obama, Trump withdrew from the treaty, violating an international agreement.”


Afterwards, the Trump administration reimposed sanctions on Iran but failed to bring them back to the negotiating table. It wasn’t until after his impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of justice that Trump abruptly ordered the attack that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani without informing Congress nor any American allies in the region. The Trump administration claims it was to prevent an imminent attack but have yet to disclose any details of the threat.


“War is incompatible with Christian teaching,” said Rev. Jill Hardt-Zundel, Pastor, Central United Methodist Church of Detroit. “If we are to live into our mission of transforming the world, we must prioritize collaboration among nations, work to reduce the use and need for weapons and foster just, equitable and durable solutions to the root causes of conflict. As people of faith, we renounce the escalation of violence and call on our government to work towards lasting peace with Iran.”


Last summer, Rev. Hardt-Zundel brought the interfaith group to her church, Central United Methodist to show support for Rep. Andy Levin’s bill calling for legislation to clarify the law governing Authorization for the Use of Military Force. The rising tensions have added new urgency for Congress to take it up.


Meanwhile, immigrants and US citizens are finding themselves under extraordinary scrutiny entering the country. "We are concerned that the escalated tensions between America and Iran has given federal enforcement officers the excuse to ramp up ethnic and religious profiling of Iranian Americans and American Muslims who have recently traveled to Iran," said Dawud Walid, Executive Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations of Michigan (CAIR-MI). "The invasive questioning of American citizens while reentering their own country without evidence of potential criminal activity should never be acceptable under any circumstances."


Shireen Smalley of the National Iranian American Council was stunned at how quickly relations had degraded following America’s departure from the Joint Plan of Action when President Trump took office. “In the absence of diplomacy and in the presence of conflict, Iranian Americans at home are much more vulnerable to violations of their civil rights,” said Smalley. “I urge all of us to make sure that we build the appropriate opposition to war in the middle east. To hold our members of congress accountable to following our interests to avoid another senseless, destructive and tragic war.”


“We’re a country that can’t feed our poor, we can’t provide health care, but we can spend trillions on wars,” said Nasser Beydoun, Chairman of the Arab-American Civil Rights League. “It is up to us, the American people, to come out into the streets and to make sure that this government does not take us into a senseless war.”

After the assassination of Gen. Soleimani, the Iraqi parliament voted to rescind their invitation to American forces. President Trump demanded reimbursement for the billions of dollars spent on the US airbase. “Do you know how many schools we can build with this? Do you know how many highways we could fix with this?” asked Osama Siblani, editor of the Arab American News. “The American people have to work very hard and take money out of their savings in order to build schools for their kids while we spend trillions of dollars on weapons of mass destruction… This president is not only going to war against Iranians and Iraquis and Muslims, he’s going to work against Americans.”