Ahmadinejad's Christmas message: good words, a shame about the speaker

There is understandable outrage, especially among Jews and reported by Ruth Gledhill, that President Ahmadinejad of Iran has been invited to present Channel 4 television’s alternative Christmas message tomorrow. It is indeed offensive that this man who has denied the Holocaust and called for the destruction of the state of Israel, and whose country persecutes followers of any religion but one, is being given such a prominent voice in the media of this free democratic country.

But perhaps as Christians we should be looking at the message rather than at the messenger. Whatever Ahmadinejad may have said in the past, the message he is offering this Christmas is largely what needs to be said to the world today. Ruth Gledhill has the complete text. In fact apart from a brief mention of “one of the children of revered messenger of Islam” there is little in this message which could not have been spoken by an evangelical Christian. Here is an extract:

Jesus, the Son of Mary is the standard-bearer of justice, of love for our fellow human beings of the fight against tyranny, discrimination and injustice.

All the problems that have bedevilled humanity throughout the ages came about because of humanity followed an evil path and disregarded the message of the Prophets.

Now as human society faces a myriad of problems and succession of complex crises, the root causes can be found in humanity’s rejection of that message, in particular the indifference of some governments and powers towards the teachings of the divine Prophets, especially those of Jesus Christ.

For Ahmadinejad “the divine Prophets” included Mohammed, but apart from that this could be a Christian message.

Of course it also has its controversial parts, such as

If Christ was on earth today undoubtedly he would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers.

Ahmadinejad doesn’t name the powers he has in mind, although we can guess. But he is no doubt correct. Of course Jesus didn’t take a public stand against the “bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist” power of his time, Rome, and refused to lead a rebellion. But he stood with its poor and oppressed victims, and the principles he taught are clearly opposed to such powers.

The response to oppression which Ahmadinejad recommends, just as Jesus did, is not violence but repentance:

The solution to today’s problems can be found in a return to the call of the divine Prophets. The solution to these crises can be found in following the prophets — they were sent by the Almighty, for the happiness of humanity.

I would not of course endorse this in the way it is probably intended, as a call to embrace Islam. But indeed the solution to today’s problems can be found in a return to the gospel message which God sent to the world through Jesus – a Prophet indeed, but far more than that, our Saviour and our Lord.

Ahmadinejad ends with these sentiments:

Once again, I congratulate one and all on the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ and I pray for the New Year to be a year of happiness, prosperity peace and brotherhood for humanity. I wish you every success.

I wish and pray the same for all of you my readers!

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