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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

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