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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid