Filed Under Installation
The final day of the events in connection with the installation of the Bishop of Iran were marked by high-level meetings with leaders of Iran in state, culture and religion.
Tuesday August 7 began with a meeting of Bishop Azad Marshall, accompanied by the Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East Mouneer Anis and Bishop Michael Nazir Ali with the former President of Iran, Dr Khatami. Earlier in the year Dr Nazir Ali and Bishop Marshall had been at Lambeth Palace when the Archbishop of Canterbury hosted a visit from Dr Khatami and the latter visited the House of Lords.
The bishops assured Dr Khatami that Bishop Azad had committed himself as a servant of Christ to be a servant to all the people of Iran, regardless of their religion.
Bishop Michael Nazir Ali expressed appreciation for Dr Khatami’s focus in inter-faith dialogue on Stewardship of the Creation, the Dialogue of Civilisations and the Theology of Dialogue and hoped this could be developed. They also exchanged reflections on Persian poetry.
Dr Khatami noted that Iran was the site of the oldest church building in the world, and it had offered safety to Christians when they were being persecuted in the early centuries. Iran also welcomed Islam and has tried to develop a great Islamic civilization. The role of Christianity was very important in this.
The former president noted that Nietzche had proclaimed that God is dead, by which he meant that the thought of God is dead in the modern world. The new civilization has brought many achievements for humanity, but in it the thought of God has been forgotten. In its place has been put the super-man, the will to power. This has been expressed in the face of Hitler. Hitler is dead, but his spirit exists in war, terrorism and violation of people.
He continued that we dare to say that God is alive. It is our duty to vitalize the thought of God among humanity. We are sure that Christianity and Islam are trying to address the absence of the thought of God among us. The great task for all of us is to enable the people to be conscious of God’s presence again, a task in which we can all be together though we have differences in detail.
The most important dialogue in the dialogue of civilizations is the dialogue among religions.
Dr Khatami closed by saying “Emphatically I wish success to Bishop Azad. Bishop Azad, this is your home”
In the afternoon, Bishop Marshall and Bishop Nazir Ali were received by the Ministry of Guidance. The Minister explained how they saw the role of the Episcopal Church in Iran as being regulated by the laws of the land. The Minister explained that the Church was free as long as it lived according to these laws. It was not specified in detail what those laws covered. The minister also encouraged Bishop Marshall to think of Iran as his second home.
In the evening the Bishops took part in a bi-lateral dialogue at the Culture and Islamic Relations Organisation. Ayatollah Iraqi and Dr Wazirie, who had brought greetings at the installation, addressed the dialogue on the Vice-regency of Humanity in Creation., a topic suggested to them by Bishop Nazir-Ali. Bishop Marshall, Bishop Nazir Ali, Dr van Bijl and Canon Dr Chris Sugden contributed to a discussion which focused on the scriptures of Islam and Christianity in describing the human person as the representative (khalifa) or image (Genesis) of God. A fruitful discussion showed that the two terms were quite close and that when humanity was truly God’s steward they would be representing God as the divine attributes would be seen.