World dignitaries opened international conference on ‘Religion in Modern World’ in Tehran on Monday.

The two-day conference will address the issue of how religious and political leaders can cooperate to promote peace by protecting human rights, moral and religious values, diversity and coexistence in pluralistic, modern societies.

It might read like an excerpt out of an article from The Onion, but in truth it’s a genuine report on an event that is actually taking place in Iran at the moment.

The ‘Religion in the Modern World’ conference was organized by the ‘Foundation for Dialogue among Civilizations’, which was founded by Khatami – Iran’s former president, and its partner organizations ‘Club de Madrid’ and the ‘Oslo Center for peace and human rights’.

The list of participants at the conference includes Kofi Annan (former UN Secretary-General), Romano Prodi (former Italian president), Kejll Magne Bondevik (former Norwegian prime minister), Mary Robinson (former Irish president) and Federico Mayor (former UNESCO general director).

Participants were quick to denounce “religious extremism”, terms such as “axis of evil” and “Israel should be wiped off the map” and “opportunistic politicians who make extremist speeches to get elected”, but have any taken a firm stance against Iran’s persecution of its largest religious minority – the Baha’is? Have any questioned the current “Apostasy Bill” that places even more severe restrictions on religious freedom in Iran? Have any denounced the arrests and intimidation of Christians and Baha’is in Iran? Would any have the courage to speak out for the 7 Baha’i leaders who have been arrested without trial for months? Will any demand that Baha’i students be allowed their right to education?

We realize the importance of dialogue at a time when many champion the theory of “Clash of Civilizations”, but does dialogue entail turning a blind eye to the large, gaping wound under the pretence of “unity” and “peace”?

Ahmadinejad can make claims that “Iran is a big family and a big nation and religious minorities are regarded as inseparable parts of this big and unified family,” but the country’s record speaks otherwise. There are many countries – both within the region and out – that present better paradigms for tolerance, respect and integration and we are outraged that Iran should be chosen as a destination.

In our outrage, we created a short video that expresses our amazement at Iran being chosen to host the conference.

(MNBR would like to thank Marco Oliveira for helping us with the script)