An article in the Christian Science Monitor today addresses the question of how far should in reaching out to those we consider “evil” and our enemy.

From the article, :

1) “To talk or not to talk. That’s the debate roiling diplomats regarding US relations with Iran. Now that debate has spilled, with all its fervor, into the arena of interfaith dialogue.

“Religious organizations dedicated to global bridge-building and peacemaking are under fire for cosponsoring an interfaith iftar dinner Thursday evening that includes President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. The Iranian leader is in New York to speak at the United Nations.

The religious groups see the event as part of a multifaith collaboration on issues of shared concern.”

2) “Conservative and Jewish groups outraged about the iftar point to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s nuclear stonewalling, threats against Israel, and questioning of the Holocaust. Last week, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent body advising the president and Congress, raised a religious freedom issue.

Iran is in the process of legally enshrining the death penalty for apostasy in its penal code, USCIRF said in a statement calling on governments to speak out. If the code is finalized, some members of many religious minorities could be subject to death sentences.”

3) “The dinner is billed as an international dialogue on the subject: “Has not one God created us? The significance of religious contributions to peace.”

It will be the fourth meeting of Iranian religious and political figures with representatives of the Mennonite Central Committee, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the World Council of Churches, and Religions for Peace.

The Mennonites and Quakers, among the so-called peace churches, see the interaction as particularly important given the lack of relations at the political level.”

4) I believe that it is more important to develop a dialogue with those we disagree with, those we perceive as our enemy, than to those who agree with us.

This requires us to listen to the other party, even if we find their message, or parts of it, offensive. It requires us to be able to see through the eyes of a person we believe we may have nothing in common with. We should acknowledge irreconcilable differences. However, if we can move past these differences we often find points of agreement, issues we can working together on.

Most of the people on the Internet that I interact with are Christ Followers. They believe in God, I don’t. Once we get past this difference I see that on most other topics we agree far more than we disagree.

Iran and the US have an irreconcilable difference over Israel. Israel is our allie and the enemy of Iran. However the US and Iran do have a common enemy, Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda is a Sunni Muslim terrorist group while Iran is actively supporting Shiite Muslim organizations. It is not inconceivable that the US and Iran could work together against Al-Qaeda, especially in Iraq.

Questions – Would you invite Iran to an interfaith conference?  Is there anyone, or any group, you would not invite?