Some bad news about Iran's nuclear program: In late May, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a U.N.-affiliated watchdog group, reported "serious concerns" that Iran was hiding information that may reveal this terrorist-supporting nation has the means to develop nuclear warheads.
Since 2005, world leaders have been increasingly anxious about Iran's nuclear weapons after its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, commented that Israel should be "wiped off the map." That threat is real. Iran hid its nuclear program for years, and since 2003 it has failed to provide total assurance to the IAEA that it is not developing nuclear warheads. It has also refused to stop uranium enrichment, as the U.N. has demanded. (Iran maintains that its uranium enrichment is for generating electricity.)
In recent months, the likelihood that the U.S. or Israel would bomb Iran's nuclear plants to stop weapons development has diminished. Now the urgent question is: Should there be direct, high-level talks with Iran about nukes? Speaking in Israel, President Bush said, "Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along." He compared such direct talks to diplomatic appeasement of the Nazis before World War II.
Western leaders, including Bush, are using public pressure, political isolation, and sanctions to convince Iran's leaders to end its nukes program. This top-down game isn't doing the job.
But Christians are influencing Iran from the bottom up. We should support diplomatic talks at the appropriate level and back aggressive efforts to keep nuclear weapons out of Iranian hands. Christians have an additional mission of particular concern for the Iranian government's restrictions on freedom (including religious liberty).
The Christian influence is not with weapons, but with radio waves, the Internet, and relational outreach. Farsi-language Christian broadcasts and websites are blanketing Iran with the gospel message 24/7. (Secular counterparts are also broadcasting messages about political reform and democracy.) This kind of hearts-and-minds campaign is having significant results, notably among Iran's huge population of young adults unhappy with the current regime. According to Compass Direct News, house churches are growing rapidly. Sadly, one result of this Christian media strategy is a negative one: Iran is considering legalizing the death penalty for anyone who leaves Islam for another religion.
We don't expect that Iranian hardliners will suddenly be transformed into peacemaking lovers of religious freedom due to a few radio broadcasts or website hits. But American foreign policy must make greater allowance for the use of influence beyond military or economic threats. Recent progress in relations with North Korea is a good example of such efforts.
Major social change often starts at the grassroots. Granted, the level of democracy in Iran isn't very strong. But the opinions of everyday people matter more in Iran than they do in other repressive states.
We should take full advantage of getting the Christian message into Iran. Freedom House, a Washington-based human rights organization, has listed Iran among its "countries at the crossroads." It's not too late for Iran to chart a new course toward freedom and away from terrorism and corruption.
Tyler Wigg Stevenson wrote about Christian consolation and the prospect of a nuclear attack in "A Merciful White Flash."
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