TEHRAN (FNA) The United States has renewed its long-time smear campaign against the Islamic Republic during the last few weeks in a bid to bring Iran to the center stage once again.
But one Michiana group just returned from Iran with a different perspective.
Gwen Gustafson-Zook says, “I had to deal with the fear. I’m a parent, I have two kids.”
Gustafson-Zook took a chance two weeks ago. She left her family in Goshen behind and headed to Iran. She was joined by 12 other people, all on a mission to promote peace.
Gustafson-Zook says, “I expected myself as we went there, that given the current political situation, we would experience unfriendliness, hostility.”
Gustafson-Zook wasn’t prepared for what happened. Every city they visited, every mosque, historical landmark, their group was met with open arms.
James Cooper also had the same feeling.
Wally Shellenberger says, “Its amazing, the warmth and hospitality we experienced. They said to us, we want to work with you.”
Shellenberger used to live in Iran. He says Iranians are open to dialogue.
But one question kept popping up in conversation.
Cooper says, “In all of our interactions with people we were scheduled to meet, with people on the streets, in shops, people asked us over and over again why the US hates them?”
In a statement from the United Arab Emirates Sunday, President Bush said, “Iran’s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere.”
Those on the mission believe it is statements like this that breed a culture of fear.
Bertha Beechy, a retired school teacher from Goshen, also on the tour, agrees.
Beechy says, “My concern as I hear the rhetoric increase in America is that somehow we can convey the openness we experienced, the hospitality, the welcoming.”
Gustafson-Zook says, “The journey toward understanding is long, and it takes effort, energy, time, and commitment, but when people want to understand, it is possible.”
Those who visited Iran say anything is possible through dialogue, learning, and an open mind.
In the words of a famous Iranian Poet: “The human race is a single being, created from one jewel.”