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Southern Baptists, others urge Iran isolation

WASHINGTON (BP)–Southern Baptist leaders are part of a coalition that has called on President Obama and members of Congress to urge United States allies to oppose the militant Islamic regime in Iran and its program to develop nuclear weapons.

The appeal, announced July 8, is the latest in a series of letters from Christian Leaders for a Nuclear-free Iran to U.S. officials over the last two years regarding Iran’s nuclear hopes and its threat to Israel. As in the past, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), was among the signers.

The latest letter also went to 83 prime ministers and other heads of state, 83 United Nations ambassadors and 83 foreign ambassadors in Washington, according to a coalition spokesperson.

In the letter, the coalition said Iran has Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad among its “terrorist proxies” and is seeking to extend its menacing reach into the Middle East.

“While continuing to develop nuclear weapons, support terrorism and repress its own people, the Iranians are also backing the brutal suppression of pro-democracy forces in Syria and backing a unilateral declaration of independence of Palestine at the United Nations as a way to sabotage real negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” the letter said.

The signers urged Obama, members of Congress and foreign leaders to use “all the diplomatic means at your disposal to pursue security and peace.” They called for an effort “to isolate Iran and to persuade the Palestinians to reject terrorism, respect previous agreements and recognize Israel’s right to exist as a nation state of the Jewish people.”

The letter was released amid a growing American concern about Iran’s growing influence in Iraq.

On July 10, new U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said weapons provided by Iran were being used by militias against the American military. “We’re seeing more of those weapons going in from Iran, and they’ve really hurt us,” Panetta said, according to The New York Times.

Fifteen members of the U.S. military were killed in June in Iraq, The Times reported.

In addition to Land, other Southern Baptist signers included former Southern Baptist Convention Presidents Jack Graham and James Merritt. Graham is pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. Merritt is senior pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga. Also signing was Barrett Duke, the ERLC’s vice president for public policy and research.

Among the other signers were Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; Penny Nance, chief executive officer of Concerned Women for America; Mathew Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel; Gary Bauer, president of American Values, and James Robison, president of Life Outreach International.

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 liberty.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.

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