Iran is mentioned frequently in the news these days, and usually in the same sentence with the words “nuclear” and “threat”. However, for me, the mention of Iran brings back memories of the warm and friendly people who welcomed our group of citizen diplomats. Last December, our group of ten visited five cities in Iran. Everywhere we went, Iranians told us enthusiastically that they love Americans, but not George Bush. They understand that we, as ordinary citizens, do not necessarily share the opinions or values of our President. Many Iranians with whom we spoke expressed clearly that they do not like the views or rhetoric of President Ahmadinejad.
I continue to speak to small groups, sharing my photos and stories of my experiences in Iran. Our two countries share so much in common. It seems we are divided by what we do not know and the rumors. My hope is that our new leadership uses the time honored art of diplomacy. We have so much to gain.
This photo shows Masoumeh, on left, speaking with me about our visit. This was in Qom, outside a holy shrine. Masoumeh asked me if I was Muslim. I explained that I wasn’t but that we were there to learn about Iran and meet Iranians so we could share these experiences with other Americans. We spoke about various things. When she left, she asked that I pray for her to my god in my own way. This total acceptance by a devout young Muslim that my beliefs were different and that that was fine left a very positive impression on me.
Our two countries have so much to share and learn from each other.