Friday, September 8, 2006

Some leading Episcopal bishops have sharply criticized the decision to invite former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami to speak at the Washington National Cathedral, the seat of the presiding bishop of the church’s American branch.

Citing the Iranian regime’s stance on women’s rights, homosexuality and Israel, Bishops John Lipscomb of Florida, Edward Little of Indiana and Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island said in a statement earlier this week that the event was “ill-conceived and inappropriate” and should be called off.

The Rev. Keith Roderick, an Episcopal priest and secretary-general of the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights, which focuses on the plight of religious minorities in the Islamic world, said cathedral officials should have invited critics of Iran’s Islamic regime to speak alongside Mr. Khatami.

“Refusing to include these voices in this ‘dialogue’ would be a terrible betrayal of Iranian Anglicans,” Mr. Roderick wrote in a letter to the Rev. John Peterson, director of the Cathedral’s Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation, which invited Mr. Khatami.

“It would also be siding with the oppressor against those other minorities who are weak and made dispossessed by the regime that your guest supports,” he wrote.

Mr. Peterson has defended the invitation.

He told the Episcopal News Service that, “although former President Khatami is viewed negatively by some, he is important as the most moderate Iranian voice willing to discourse with Americans on matters of peace among the Abrahamic faiths.”

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