Axis of Frienship

An Axis of Friendship with Iran Festival was held this past Sept. 12 in San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza in memory of the lives lost on 9/11, and in unity with thousands in Iran who support peace and dialogue.

Thousands of people addressed the crowd on the importance of reclaiming the “axis of friendship” with Iran. The purpose of the festival is to prevent future wars and achieving global peace. Inluential people joined in on the even as speakers such as Iranian-American writer Amir Soltani, Dr. Jeff Ritterman, Nooshin Razani of Military Families Speak Out, and Michael Batchelder of Jewish Voice for Peace.

The San Francisco event ended with the lighting of candles by hundreds of supporters from across the globe.

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Karl Rove’s appearance at the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s annual speakers forum drew a small but spirited group of peace activists to the capital city’s downtown convention center. There were more than 2,500 people who attended the event, which also featured speeches by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Deepak Chopra and others.

Although it was an event to promote peace, there were hundreds of protesters greeted attendees arriving for the morning program with signs such as “Jail Rove for Contempt” and “Arrest Rove for Contempt of Congress.” These were a reminder of the disregard by Pres. George W. Bush’s longtime political guru and former deputy chief of staff of a House Judiciary Committee subpoena, and of Rove’s refusal to testify at a July 10 hearing regarding the administration’s role in the firing of nine U.S. attorneys and the prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman of Alabama.

How Axis of Friendship Began

Scholar and activist Rita Nakashima Brock, of Faith Voices for the Common Good, was a catalyst behind launching the Axis of Friendship in 2008. Here is an interview with Brock regarding how Axis of Friendship began.

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Question: How did the Axis of Friendship begin?
Broc: “Last July, Rev. Pat DeJong [senior minister] at First Congregational Church in Berkeley, Calif. (FCCB) and I met to discuss what we could do about the demonization of Iran, and HR 362 making its way through the House, which included a naval blockade against Iran, an act of war under international law. It was clear the US military was in trouble in Iraq, so starting a war with a country 3 times its size whose legally elected government the US overthrew in 1953 was of great concern to us.

We decided to meet with others in the East Bay we had worked with previously in trying to stop the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. At that meeting, I suggested that another war protest would not be news and we needed to include some Iranian Americans to create a strategy they could support. We invited leaders of the Iranian Student Association at Cal Berkeley, an organizer for Iranian voters in the South Bay, and a friend of mine, Amir Soltani, with whom I’d shared a Harvard connection and with whom begun to work on poverty in Oakland.

The Iranian Americans said no one from their communities would show up for a political protest (because of danger to their families and themselves, and disillusionment with such protests), but they love festivals. We decided to hold a US-Iran friendship festival in San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza with food, music, art, and speakers, ending with taking children’s peace art to Nancy Pelosi’s office near the Plaza. We had the speakers first (nine leaders from various faiths and communities, plus a middle school group, which read peace poetry) and called a press conference”

Question: How did you settle on September 12 as the date?
Brock: “The first feasible date for the event last year, given all the political conventions that summer, was September 12, a Friday afternoon. Amir, who had worked as a journalist, pointed out that on that day in 2001, 10,000 people had stood with candles in the streets of Tehran in solidarity and sorrow with the tragedy of 9/11. So, our choice of date seemed ideal to point to the global friendship that emerged that day all over the world. After discussing what to call it, we settled on the Axis of Friendship. A Festival of Friendship seemed to vague and general and needed explaining. Whereas Axis of Friendship directly linked the festival to the aftermath of 9/11 and the invention of an “axis of evil” in January of 2002, which was used to launch “preemptive” wars of aggression.

We decided to hold a candle lighting vigil as the conclusion of our festival and invited other communities to do so. Both Chapman University’s church relations office and the community at Pilgrim Place in Claremont, Calif., decided to hold vigils, and our festival in San Francisco was very successful.”

Question: What else is important for people to know?

Brock: “I think there are many ways for Christians to promote peace. The work of overseas ministries is an underappreciated and underutilized avenue for positive work for peace. At the same time, we have an increasingly diverse society and amazing opportunities to strengthen the Axis of Friendship with people in our own regions. We need to be reaching out to Iraqis, Afghanis, and Iranians who are our neighbors, and befriending them.

I first came to appreciate Iran in college because of work I did in Biblical studies and the impact of Persia on Isaiah and on Christianity. Then over a decade ago I met an Iranian Muslim feminist in London, Roxanne Zand, who introduced me to feminist writings she translated and to modern Iranian artists she was supporting as an art curator. And, of course, I have learned a great deal from Amir and the Iranian Americans I have come to know in the East Bay.”

Promoting Peace With Iran

Negotiators from all over the world have been zeroing in on a deal that would prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. And all over the world, Global Zero members are speaking out in support of these negotiations. A deal with Iran is an important step toward achieving a world without nuclear weapons. Here’s how a nuclear deal with Iran will move the global community closer to a safer future.

The spread of nuclear weapons is a recipe for increased instability on a global scale. The addition of just one more nuclear-armed country, especially in the Middle East, could dramatically upset regional and global stability. If Iran builds a bomb, its neighbors will feel pressure to arm themselves. This could potentially spark a disastrous arms race.

More nukes also means more potential for accidents and increased likelihood that terrorists will get their hands on a bomb. They make the world a more dangerous place. A diplomatic solution with Iran will break the cycle of proliferation and promote greater regional stability for years to come.

A multilateral nuclear deal with Iran will mark a historical breakthrough and prove that diplomacy can stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

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A deal with Iran would be a huge victory for diplomacy and proponents for Global Zero. With a diplomatic solution comes unparalleled verification — ensuring that the international community can confirm that Iran holds up its end of the bargain. It can set a new standard for international inspections and provide a model for dealing not just with “tough cases” like North Korea, but all nuclear-armed states or others seeking to build these weapons. It will also prove how much can be achieved when nations come together and act with urgency and resolve to improve global security.

A deal with Iran will make the world safer and pave the way to a world without nuclear weapons. And the deadline is drawing closer — a deal could be announced as early as June 3