Iran is “the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today.”
With these words the Canadian government cut all diplomatic ties with the country, closing its embassy in Tehran and expelling Iranian diplomats from Ottawa.
Don Peters, MCC Canada’s Executive Director, has expressed MCC’s concern over this decision in a letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, dated September 10, 2012 and printed below.
Dear Minister Baird,
I am writing on behalf of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to express our concern over the Government of Canada’s recent decision to suspend all diplomatic ties with Iran.
MCC has worked in Iran for over two decades, beginning with our response to an earthquake in Iran’s northwestern provinces in 1990. Since that time we have supported a variety of initiatives that emphasize people-to-people contact, including educational exchanges for university students, and religious dialogue between Mennonite Christian and Shia Muslim scholars.
We understand that your position on Iran’s government has been clear and is well known. MCC’s position has also been clear. When we have had the opportunity, we have expressed concerns over Iranian government statements on the Holocaust and Israel, Iran’s nuclear program, and religious freedom in Iran. We have consistently urged both Iranian and western leaders to stop using rhetoric that defines the other using “enemy” language. And, perhaps most importantly, we have shared our appreciation for the relationships of respect and trust that we have developed with Iranians.
We recognize that MCC’s efforts have been modest, but we have been compelled to pursue them because of our deep conviction that the resolution of disagreements and dangerous situations requires more—rather than fewer—opportunities for dialogue. This conviction is deeply rooted in our Christian faith. It is expressed in one of the four core approaches we bring to our work: to build bridges to connect people and ideas across cultural, political, and economic divides. This conviction is also, we would humbly suggest, relevant for government policy.
The Government of Canada has made it clear that it believes that the Government of Iran is “the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today.” We are concerned about the strategies and actions your department may pursue to address this threat in the coming months. We urge you to do everything possible to de-escalate tensions and minimize the likelihood that Iran or other nations will resort to violence.
Finally, although we recognize that the future of long-standing scholarly exchanges supported by MCC is now in jeopardy, we would be grateful for the continued assistance of Canadian diplomatic staff as we seek to make these opportunities possible.
Donald G. Peters