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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube 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.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid