New York — Michael Perry, OFM, coordinator of the Africa Desk of Franciscans International, and Elias Mallon, SA, were invited to be part of a 40-member delegation that met with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, on Sept. 20.
The meeting was set up by the Mennonite Central Committee. It included members of various religious NGOs, the editor of America, a American Jesuit publication, scholars on Islam, and other interested parties.
According to the Franciscans International, the meeting took place under heavy security at the Intercontinental Hotel in Manhattan. President Ahmadinejad, the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, and his entourage met with the group for more than an hour. The president spoke in Farsi for approximately 45 minutes, reiterating points which he had made during his speech before the United Nations General Assembly.
He was questioned about his position on the Holocaust, Israel, nuclear weapons and the negative attitude toward the U.S. These were questions that came up again and again during his stay in New York and his answers were usually the same. While it was not expected that there would be a major breakthrough on these issues, several participants, nonetheless, found his answers unsatisfactory, according to the FI Web site.
President Ahmadinejad expressed surprise that the meeting did not concentrate more on religious topics, although he did not clarify what he meant by “religious topics.” Toward the end of the meeting, he agreed that further meetings in Tehran might be helpful.
Several members of the delegation, including Br. Elias and Fr. Mike, met at Quaker House to discuss the impact that this meeting might have on Iranian-U.S. and Christian-Shi’te Muslim relations.