News / USA

Obama's Spiritual Adviser Says He Relayed Message From Iran

FILE - President Barack Obama greets the Rev. Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed, during the Easter Prayer Breakfast in the East Room of the White House in Washington.
FILE - President Barack Obama greets the Rev. Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed, during the Easter Prayer Breakfast in the East Room of the White House in Washington.
Spiritual diplomacy has emerged between Washington and Tehran.

Back from a recent visit to Iran, U.S. President Barack Obama’s spiritual adviser said he conveyed a message from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to the White House.

“I probably shouldn’t have brought that up at all,” Joel Hunter, a senior pastor of Northland Church in Florida, said in an interview with VOA’s Persian service. “That was a message given to me in privacy, so I can’t tell you any more about it.”

Still, the revelation is coming at a sensitive time as the U.S., the West and Iran are engaging in deep talks to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Iranian government spokesman Mohammad Bager Nowbakht denied that a message was conveyed to Hunter, telling Tehran's Mehr News Agency, “There is no need for such a message.”

“If there are negotiations similar to the telephone conversation they [Rouhani and Obama] had in the past, this will be announced,” he told Mehr. "We are not going to hide anything from the people.”


Diplomacy unfolds

But Hunter said he is sure he got the message.

“All I can tell you is, I was speaking to [Rouhani’s] chief of staff, his chief of staff relayed a message that he’d just gotten off the phone and, so, I don’t know what exactly is going on,” he told VOA.

Full interview with Rev. Hunter:
 
Interview with Rev. Joel Hunteri
X
June 12, 2014 10:06 PM
Persian News Network talks with U.S. President Barack Obama’s spiritual adviser

Hunter said he is short on envoy experience.

“I know I probably should not have brought it up because there are delicate political nuances to be negotiated here,” he said.  “And so I’m sorry if I put someone in a bad position over there.”

But when asked if was happy with the message, Hunter said, “Very.”

Religious talks

Hunter, who led a delegation of U.S. religious leaders to the Islamic republic late last month, said the reason the group went was to have religious talks among religious leaders as a way to further peace and understanding between the two countries.

“We went over hoping that we would build trust between our countries and between our respective religions, because when our governments negotiate, there is really no trust between our two countries,” he said.

“Iran is unique in all of the countries of the Middle East because they define themselves as a religious country,” Hunter said.

“Their leadership is religious so, therefore, if there is to be trust gained, if there is to be ultimately peace between our countries, it will more likely happen because religious leaders have had a conversation than only if political leaders have tried to negotiate some policy or something,” he added.

In fact, he said, “in all of our conversations, we try to stay away from politics, even though all of us have connections with those in our respective governments.”

“This is an independent visit. We didn’t go over as a delegation representing our government. We didn’t go over trying to negotiate any kind of relationship between our countries,” Hunter said.

Americans held in Iran

During conversations with Iranian authorities, Hunter said the issue of several Americans being held in Iran.

Hunter said the Iranian officials “were very receptive” to the discussion.

“They even guided us toward the proper person, told us how to make our request. … We felt like they were very hospitable when we were making our plea,” he added.

“One of the things we have talked about in our conversations [has been] our concern over people who have … met legal trouble because of religious violations. So … we talked about Pastor [Saeed] Abedini and others who are incarcerated there,” Hunter said.

Abedini is an Iranian American Christian pastor imprisoned in Iran since 2012 on charges of undermining national security through his Christian activities in Iran.

A State Department official said in an email that the United States is aware of independent initiatives by various U.S. religious figures to foster interfaith dialogue with Iranian religious scholars, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

"We commend such efforts to promote interfaith tolerance and religious freedom, a foreign policy priority for the Department," the official said.

You May Like

Report: $60 Billion Leaves Africa Illegally Each Year

Report by joint UN and African Union panel says African countries need to take concrete measures to stop illegal money flow from continent each year More

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Some analysts say Russian Tu-95 bombers were flying near British airspace to warn Britain about an inquest into a murdered Russian spy More

Mugabe Defends Image Amid Controversy at Close of AU Summit

He rejects concerns about how the West might perceive his leadership, saying he's focused on African development More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: PermReader
June 16, 2014 9:15 AM
"Spiritual diplomacy" or a fuss during the Bomb creation and the Christians`percecution?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relationsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
January 31, 2015 10:50 PM
Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Neighborhood Divided Over Conflict

People in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk districts find themselves squarely in the path of advancing Russian-backed rebels, who want to take back the territory they held at the beginning of the conflict last year. Many local residents are afraid, but others would welcome the change, even when a rebel shell lands in their neighborhood. From the Luhansk district, 15 kilometers from where the Ukrainian government marks the front line, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid