Iran’s Respect for Religious Diversity

Saturday, October 18, 2008

In line with Iran’s efforts to promote dialogue among civilizations, the Religion in the Modern World conference was held in Tehran from October 13 to 16.

The conference, which was organized by the Foundation for Dialogue Among Civilizations and its director, former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami, brought together many celebrated dignitaries, including former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, former EU Commission president Romano Prodi, three former presidents, Mary Robinson (Ireland), Jorge Sampaio (Portugal), and Joseph Deiss (Switzerland), and two former prime ministers, Lionel Jospin (France) and Kejll Magne Bondevik (Norway).

The fact that such a conference was held clearly demonstrates that Iran’s ancient tradition of showing respect for different cultures and religions is still alive and well.

The reality on the ground in Iran is quite different from what is being propagated by certain countries and organizations in their disinformation campaigns, which are attempting to demonize Iran and depict Iranians as anti-Semitic because of the Islamic Republic’s principled stance toward the Palestine issue.

Due to the country’s religious and cultural traditions, in Iran there is no sign of the religious extremism and intolerance that have opened wounds in certain Muslim states and allowed the enemies to present a negative image of Islam to the world.

Since ancient times, Iranians have appreciated cultural diversity, and they have peacefully coexisted with people practicing different religions for thousands of years. And this actually enriched Iranian culture.

The Bible even mentions the fact that the ancient Persians showed great tolerance and respect for the rights of people of different cultures and religions. Some historians even say that the Persian Empire was the first truly multicultural state.

In modern times, all recognized religious minorities -– Zoroastrians, Christians, and Jews -- are represented in the Iranian parliament and steps are being taken to remedy any shortcomings in respect to the rights of members of religious minority groups.

Iran’s respect for its religious minorities was highlighted again over the past week when the central office of the International Union of Assyrians was officially transferred from the United States to Iran after four decades.

The Assyrians, who are mostly Christian, would not have taken this action if they believed that religious prejudice was a serious problem in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Iranian Muslims are proud of the fact that Zoroastrians, Christians, and Jews live in the country, freely practice their religions, and have no fear of religious persecution. And all Iranians believe this shows the greatness of Iranian civilization and hope that future generations keep this tradition alive for thousands of years.


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