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Land, other religious leaders: Sanctions needed on Iran

WASHINGTON (BP)–Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land has joined Jewish and evangelical Christian leaders in New York in calling for immediate sanctions to thwart Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

The president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission collaborated with Paul de Vries, president of the New York Divinity School and leader of the New York Evangelicals, and Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, in issuing a statement Nov. 2 urging all governments to apply sanctions in order to produce effective diplomacy and encourage the human rights efforts of Iranians living under a militant Islamic regime.

The evangelical and Jewish groups recommended two actions proposed by some members of Congress:

— Sanction banks that work even indirectly with Iranian banks;

— Sanction firms or governments that export refined petroleum to Iran.

“Such actions could quickly damage Iran’s economy, shrink the regime’s domestic popularity, provoke real diplomacy, and engender significant steps toward ending the Iran regime’s murderous pursuit of nuclear weapons,” their statement said. “Leading nations should then engage in effectual diplomacy, resulting in enforced guarantees of an Iran without weapons of mass destruction, nuclear or otherwise.”

Iran contends it is developing nuclear power for non-military purposes, but other countries are concerned the effort is to establish a nuclear arms program.

The Iranian government has hesitated in recent days to follow through on a tentative agreement it had made. The regime now desires to make changes in a deal it had reached to send a large portion of its low-enriched uranium to other countries to be processed, according to The Washington Post.

Iran is building its second uranium-enrichment facility, which an official said could produce enough material for a nuclear bomb each year, The Post reported in late September. The Middle East country also completed both long-range and short-range missile tests during the same week.

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been especially provocative toward Israel, denying the Holocaust and threatening to destroy the Jewish state.

Upon release of the document Nov. 2, Land said, “We stand in solidarity with all people of goodwill both in the region and around the world in seeking to stop a nuclear Iran from grievously imperiling Israel, the Middle East and the world’s peace.”

“Jesus commanded His followers to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world [Matt. 5:13-16],” he said.

“In seeking meaningful sanctions against the current Iranian regime, we are attempting to be salt in preserving Israel and the entire region from bloody conflict and terrible loss of life,” Land said. “We are seeking to be light by expressing our commitment to the intrinsic value and invaluable worth of all of our fellow human beings, both inside and outside Iran, whose lives and liberties are in peril by the dangerous rogue regime which presently oppresses the Iranian people.”

The endorsers of the Nov. 2 statement gave 10 reasons for sanctions, including: Iran’s status as the top state sponsor of terrorism, its brutalization of the human-rights movement within its borders, its potential control of half of the world’s oil reserves and the threat of a nuclear arms race in response to Iran’s weapons program.

“We need to apply as much pressure as possible on Iran because the status quo is unacceptable,” Potasnik said in a written release. “Iran has a government without a conscience, so we must stand together — evangelicals, Jews and all others.”

Land signed onto a Sept. 22 letter to President Obama and Congress making a similar appeal regarding sanctions seeking to produce change in Iran’s nuclear policy. Other Southern Baptists among the nearly 50 signers of that letter included current SBC President Johnny Hunt and former SBC presidents Jack Graham and James Merritt.

Iran is one of only eight countries to be classified by the U.S. State Department as “countries of particular concern,” a designation reserved for the world’s worst violators of religious freedom.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.