Rockford Urban Ministries Executive Director Stanley Campbell has left on a Fellowship of Reconciliation trip to Iran. After applying, he received official notification from Hossein Alizadeh, FOR Iran Initiative, that he would be on the spring FOR delegation, May 6-22. Orientation took place May 6 in New York City, and the delegates departed for Tehran May 7.
In Tehran, the delegates will stay for a full day, based at the Howeyzeh Hotel; they are scheduled to meet with the Jewish enclave as well as Muslim, Shiite and Christian leaders. Then its on to Shiraz, where they will visit the Tomb of Hafez, Tomb of Saadi, Delgosha Garden, Vakil Mosque & bazaar, Qoran Gateway and the Mausoleum of Ali Ibn Hamzeh.
May 14, they will drive to Isfahan, en route visiting Persepolis and Nagshe Rostam. In Isfahan, they will take a city tour, visiting Vank Church Armenian area. Then they will see the Zoroastrian Fire Temple in Jolfa, and in the afternoon visit the old bridges of Zyandeh Rud River.
May 15, the group will visit Imam Square, including Imam and Sheik Lotfollah mosques, Ali Qupo Palace and bazaar. The afternoons agenda includes Ali Gholi Agha Bath with an optional visit to Zoorhaneh.
May 16, they will drive to Qum via Natanz, where they will visit Jameh Mosque, a pottery workshop and the center of orphan girls of Allameh Majlesi. They will continue on to Qum, where they will visit Hazrat Masoumeh Shrine and the library of Ayatollah Marashi Najafi. En route, they will visit the Mausoleum of Imam Khomeini and the cemetery of martyrs. They will stay overnight in the International Hotel.
Wednesday, May 17, the group hopes to meet in Qum with one of the superior clergymen and foreign students of the theological school in that city. Then, they will drive to Tehran, visiting Behesht Zahra and Imams shrine enroute. They plan to spend two more full days in Tehran before leaving Saturday, May 20, for the flight home.
The 25 delegates from across the country are required to provide their own travel expense. Campbell has the support of Rockford Urban Ministries and has collected donations from family and friends.
The Rock River Times spoke with Campbell the day before he left on the trip.
TRRT: How did you decide to apply for this trip?
Campbell: I saw the trip advertised in a peace magazine, and I applied for the opportunity to go on the trip. It was a select group. I applied by mail.
TRRT: What is your experience with FOR?
Campbell: As a long-time peace activist, I got a lot of information about their support for El Salvador and peace activists in the 1980s. I found out that they were very active in the civil rights movement of the 60s. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a member.
TRRT: What places are on the trip, and what do you expect to see? (Campbell provided us with a copy of the itinerary.)
Campbell: Besides these places, we will be meeting with the Muslim religious leaders and [see] some of the Christian churches that are still therethe very early churches from when the apostles came through. Theyve been there longer than any other denominations. Then there are two Jewish communities we will visit, and we will meet with the Iranian Parliament.
TRRT: What have you learned about the country in advance?
Campbell: I learned that the war between Iraq and Iran was probably the worst war in the last 50 years, and the U.S. supported Iraq and Saddam Hussein in attacking Iran back in the 1980s. It lasted 10 years, and Saddam used chemical weapons. It killed a lot of people. Before that, Iran had overthrown the Shah of Iran, who was a friend of the United States. It caused all kinds of problems.
TRRT: What was the most difficult part of preparation for the trip?
Campbell: Reading the latest news reports that kept on getting more and more bellicose between Iran and the United States. They do not speak diplomatically to each other, but they seem to use airwaves to yell at each other. The Farsi languageI learned some Farsi. I hope I dont embarrass myself when I say hello, which is really salaamat least thats what Ive been told.
TRRT: Was Congressman Manzullo or any other government official involved in getting clearance for this trip?
Campbell: No. I was surprised that there was no U.S. government permission needed, but I did let my senators and congressman know that I was going.
TRRT: Do you plan to establish any lasting links with people on the peace delegation or any people in Iran you may meet?
Campbell: I hope to make a few new friends in Iran, and I always enjoy traveling with other peace activists, whom I usually meet later on in life. I know nobody in this delegation. There are some pretty distinguished peoplethe head of the national Pax Christi as well as the American-Iranian Peace Council.
TRRT: Any other comments youd like to make?
Campbell: I think Iran feels surrounded by their nemesis, the United States. Theres U.S. soldiers on their eastern border with Afghanistan and their western border with Iraq, so they are trying to rush into building nuclear weapons as a last-ditch effort. But I think its dangerousmaking nuclear bombs is dirty.
Interested readers can follow the adventures of the tour at www.forusa.org.
From the May 10-16, 2006, issue