January 20, 2014:  Dr. Elaine Padilla, Assistant Professor of Constructive Theology at New York Theological Seminary, is traveling to Iran this week as a member of a ten-member delegation from seven US universities and theological schools who are participating in a conference being held in Tehran January 21-23, 2014.  The conference, which is jointly sponsored by US Academics for Peace and the Institute for Political and International Studies in Tehran (IPIS), is bringing together members of the US and Iranian academic communities as part of a larger effort to increase peace and understanding between the two nations.  Various sessions of the three-day program will be devoted to “The State of Iranian-American Relations,” “The Role of Religion and Religious Dialogue in Peace,”  “Civil Society, Women, and Minorities,” and “The Academy’s Contribution to Trust and Reconciliation.”  While in Iran members of the delegation will also speak at several universities, including Tehran University and Shahid Beheshti (the Iranian National) University.  NYTS, through its Center for World Christianity, is one of several schools supporting the initiative.

US Academics for Peace is a non-governmental organization founded by Dr. James Jennings, who is also the founder of Conscience International.  The group has previously met on several occasions with senior Iranian leaders in Tehran, and was invited to Iran for this trip by the Iranian Foreign Ministry through the Islamic Republic’s ambassador to the United Nations.  The conference this week comes in the wake of the breakthrough Geneva meetings between the United States and Iran and the implementation of the Geneva “First Step” agreement that was signed last November.  In announcing the conference from Tehran yesterday, Dr. Jennings said, “Lack of trust between the two sides has isolated Iran and prevented meaningful progress on a range of issues important for Middle Eastern and world peace.  We aim to help begin the process of building bridges between US and Iranian academics as well as with Iranian officials as a way of restoring trust, which is basic to making agreements that stick.”

Dr. Padilla’s involvement in the delegation comes as a direct result of the “Nurturing Peace” conference hosted by NYTS in May, 2013 in New York.  US Academics for Peace was one of the co-sponsoring organizations of “Nurturing Peace,” which was supported in part by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.  Dr. Padilla’s teaching and research have included inter-religious dialogue, comparative mysticism, and the theology of migration in the Abrahamic faiths.

Contact information for the delegation in Tehran:
James Jennings, PhD, Executive Director, US Academics for Peace 770-530-1699 Stephen Bronner, PhD, Professor of Political Science, Rutgers University 646-552-0214

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