Submitted by David Hartsough on March 2, 2009

Here's an update from our delegation leader David Hartsough:

Father Louie Vitale and I met with a group of Iranian war veterans from the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) and a delegation from Hiroshima, Japan. Some of the vets had lost their legs; many had been attacked by the chemical weapons used by Saddam Hussein against the Iranians and have been suffering the consequences ever since.

There were widows who had lost their husbands, men who could barely see with one eye, people who could not breathe when someone started to smoke, and many from Hiroshima who had lost so many of their relatives and loved ones.

What was so powerful was that no one in the room spoke of revenge. Rather, they spoke of the need to create a world where weapons of mass destruction are never used again so others will never have to suffer the pain and tragedy they have suffered.

A man who lost his legs to the war said, “We need to build a world where there will never again be war. Especially in an age when the large majority of casualties of war are civilians, we HAVE to find peaceful means to resolve conflicts. In the 21st century, war is NOT acceptable by any nation.”  Obviously, he was not only speaking of peace as an intellectual or moral concern, but as a heart-felt call to the world to end the monstrosity of war.

Contrary to the image many in the U.S. have of Iranians as terrorists running around with missiles in their pockets and threatening other people and other countries, we have found almost every Iranian we have met having a passionate desire for peace. What we have heard over and over again is that Iran has not attacked any other country in over two thousand years, but they will defend themselves if attacked. But their overwhelming and deep desire and concern is for living in peace – with their neighbors and with all countries – including the United States.

I hope all people reading this blog will contact President Obama and their Members of Congress and encourage them to move away from confrontation and threats against Iran and to a commitment to resolve all our differences through diplomacy, negotiation and real respect for one another.

We have felt the rich history and culture of Iran in so many ways – thousands of years of history and culture and for this young nation, the USA, to treat Iran like a naughty child who will be punished if he does not behave properly – according to the relatively newcomer nation, the USA is deeply resented by the people of Iran.

Real peace must grow out of mutual respect and a commitment to resolve all differences by peaceful means. May we all learn from the survivors of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb and the veterans of the Iran-Iraq war, that rather than revenge, we must recommit ourselves to finding peaceful means to resolve conflict and ending all war – for our children and all the world’s children.

    – Tehran, Iran, March 2, 2009