The following editorial was submitted to Catholic News Service by Marie Dennis, Co-President of Pax Christi International. It was originally published here.
An old rabbi once asked his pupils how they could tell when the night had ended and the day had begun. “Could it be,” asked one of his students, “when you can see an animal in the distance and tell whether it’s a sheep or a dog?” “No,” answered the rabbi.
Another asked, “Is it when you can look at a tree in the distance and tell whether it’s a fig tree or a peach tree?” “No,” answered the rabbi.
“Then when is it?” the pupils demanded. “It is when you can look on the face of any man or woman and see that it is your brother or sister. Because if you cannot see this, it is still night.” (from “Peacemaking Day by Day,” Pax Christi USA)
Nine years ago, when the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program had provoked rumors of a U.S. military attack with bunker buster tactical nuclear weapons, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a New York-based group promoting social justice, sent an interfaith delegation to Iran with the aim of talking with ordinary Iranian citizens about peaceful solutions to the stand-off.
After their visit, Dave Robinson, then executive director of Pax Christi USA and a member of the 25-person delegation, wrote about meeting a group of young women in the town of Natanz, the site of the Iranian uranium enrichment facility, and imagining what would happen to them if the U.S. made good on its threat to bomb the site.
“Today,” he wrote, “there is a darkness hanging over our nation that is as deep as the night. The faces of these young women remain obscured by decades of images that have reduced the Iranians to a single stereotype that for many U.S. citizens is the embodiment of the ‘enemy.’ Our task as peacemakers is to be a beacon, to pierce the darkness and usher in the light of day. Only when we can gaze upon their faces and see them as our sisters and brothers will we know that that day has come.”
Then, and ever since, Pax Christi International and its member organizations around the world in the United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand, Pakistan, Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands and France, have been calling for a negotiated settlement to the Iranian crisis.
That a diplomatic agreement has become a reality after years of painstaking negotiations is a great accomplishment. Its rejection by the U.S. Congress would be a tragedy of monumental proportions.
The agreement will curb Iran’s development of nuclear weapons while allowing the country to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Scientists, diplomats, political and religious leaders (including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) and countless others around the world have scrutinized its details and support its implementation.
It is a critical step toward nuclear non-proliferation; could stimulate development of a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East; and, hopefully, open a path toward nuclear disarmament.
The deal also will enable Iran to play a more active role in regional politics, increasing the possibility of a diplomatic solution to the war in Syria and leveraging political concessions in Baghdad and Damascus that could more effectively curtail the power of ISIS and avert a wider Shia-Sunni conflict.
Above all, skilled diplomacy has prevented a disastrous war in response to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, a war that would have endangered the entire world.
We are hopeful that its successful implementation will be a turning point for all nations away from the acquisition, possession or modernization of nuclear weapons and toward their abolition worldwide.