A man described as President Obama's "spiritual adviser," Pastor Joel Hunter, recently visited Iran for a week to discuss "religious tolerance" in the famously oppressive countty. Now Hunter will, according to a news report, brief President Obama on his trip there.
"Joel Hunter, a spiritual adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama, recently spent about a week discussing religious tolerance with officials in Iran, a country often singled out by rights groups for its intolerance toward its religious minorities. Hunter, a senior pastor of Northland Church in Florida who led a delegation of U.S. religious leaders to the Islamic republic, says he was invited by Iranian religious leaders and scholars to attend a conference," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported over the weekend.
"Hunter, who describes himself as someone who helps Obama get closer to God, says he will brief the U.S. President on his trip, which included a visit to the holy city of Qom.
"Hunter's visit to Iran is likely to be castigated by hard-liners in the country as well as critics in the United States who oppose engagement efforts with an Islamic establishment that has been accused of serious human rights abuses."
Hunter tells Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that he's working toward making "progress." "That's part of how we make progress, is that those of us who know we're going to be blamed by some of the hard-liners, for even having these conversations," Hunter tells the outlet. "We believe it's worth the risk because we're not going to make progress as countries or even as religious communities for not talking to one another."
The report says that Obama's "spiritual adviser" had meetings with "Iran's parliament speaker, advisers to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, officials of Iran's academy of science, Christian and Jewish leaders, and Grand Ayatollahs in Qom."A State Department official praised the visit. "We commend such efforts to promote interfaith tolerance and religious freedom, a foreign policy priority for the Department," he wrote in an email to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.