Guest Post: Sasan’s Story
I am excited to share another guest post with you. This one comes from a dear friend, Wayne Peck, who is pastor of Community House Church. Wayne and I have been friends since we were examined for ordination at the same presbytery meeting. We have served as colleagues in Pittsburgh Presbytery since then.
In this post, Wayne talks about the ministry of Sasan Tavassoli, who he met while visiting Peachtree Church in Atlanta. As Wayne told me the story of Sasan’s ministry of reconciliation between Christians and Muslims in Iran, I was amazed. Sasan shows immense courage engaging in a mission of unity that we do well to learn from. If Muslims and Christians in Iran can join in graceful conversation about their faith, surely we in the PCUSA can do so. That has always been my deepest conviction.
I am inspired by this ministry, as described by Wayne, and trust you will be as well.
Guest post by Dr. Wayne C. Peck, Ph.D
As a follower of Jesus, it takes the courage of Christ-like conviction to say “No!” to war. This is especially true in a climate of rising political and military tensions between America and Iran, along with the very real possibility of the United States becoming embroiled in yet another war in the Middle East. As a Christian in America, it takes courage to reach out and engage Muslims in Iran and build bridges of understanding that can lead us from the brink of war forward to the path of peace.
Sasan Tavassoli is a minister of the Presbyterian Church of Iran and currently on the staff of the Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. His recent book, Christian Encounters with Iran: Engaging Muslim Thinkers After the Revolution (2011), gives us a window on the cultural and religious climate surrounding Christian-Muslim dialogue in contemporary Iran.
Growing up in Iran in a Shi’i Sufi household, then becoming a Christian twenty years ago, Sasan’s spiritual experience and deep knowledge of Muslim traditions (he has a PhD. in Islamic Studies) uniquely prepared him to become the bridge builder that he is today. Following Jesus, Sasan seeks to be an instrument of God’s peace at a critical time when failing politics are driving nations toward destructive wars in the Middle East.
How does he do it? One way is through his satellite teaching ministry. Sasan’s video broadcasts are beamed into Iran as a way to engage Muslims and Christians and create a conversational space to talk about the Bible and the Quran. The goal is to foster pluralistic understandings of God’s presence and God’s will.
Additionally, Sasan’s ministry opens our eyes to recent and on-going interfaith dialogues within Iran among Muslims and Christians that are grounds for hope. These dialogues supported both by government and non-governmental organizations in Iran are spaces for creative engagement, where give and take is possible, where critical approaches are taken to reading each other’s sacred texts, where bridges are built between believers in God.
So what is most promising in all of this? Sasan points to an emerging trend in these interfaith dialogues that moves away from traditional unproductive Muslim/Christian polemics that have led to war and towards a new way that highlights compatible visions of God’s Will. The result is allowing many more to walk the path toward peace together.
Sasan’s ministry supports believers who are working to appreciate their differences while creating common ground for pluralistic interpretations of God’s Will. His hope is that creating and sustaining generous and informed dialogue can lead us to justice and peace. This bridge building is hard work – in every time and place – but I’m grateful that Sasan is committed to it. If you want to learn more about the work being done at Peachtree, you can visit http://www.peachtreepres.org/.