On June 14, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops went to Iran to meet with the Iran Supreme Council of the Seminary Teachers of Qom (Shia Islam) to sign a joint declaration opposing actions that, “endanger the life, health, dignity and welfare of others, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” The discussions lasted from June 11-17 and served as a public diplomacy effort to foster better relations between Americans and Iranians.
In the joint declaration, religious leaders declared that, “Shia Islam opposes and forbids the production, stockpiling, use and threat to use weapons of mass destruction. Catholicism is also working for a world without weapons of mass destruction and calls on all nations to rid themselves of these indiscriminate weapons.”
The joint declaration concluded with a plea for respect of all religions, and ambitions for “inter-religious dialogue that transcends governments and national boundaries.”
This public diplomacy effort comes at a very crucial time, as discussions are currently underway to negotiate a deal with Iran in order to reach a comprehensive agreement regarding their nuclear program before the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) is set to expire on July 20th of this year.
ASP believes that public diplomacy efforts such as this are crucial in helping to create dialogue, foster trust, and build long-term relationships between the U.S. and Iran. By cultivating relationships with citizens, misperceptions can be battled through exchange and dialogue, and U.S.-Iran relations can begin to normalize once again, facilitating negotiations and benefiting both countries’ interests. For further reading, please see ASP’s “U.S. Public Diplomacy Towards Iran.”
Theresa Shaffer is a nuclear security researcher and intern at the American Security Project. She is a recent graduate of the University of North Texas with degrees in International Studies and French. You can follow her on twitter here: Theresa Shaffer