Rescued Iranians thank God for U.S. Navy

AP AP In this photo provided by the U.S. Navy, an Iranian mariner greets a U.S. Coast Guardsman aboard the … Continued



In this photo provided by the U.S. Navy, an Iranian mariner greets a U.S. Coast Guardsman aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Monomoy Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012 in the Persian Gulf. Monomoy rescued six Iranian mariners who had to abandon their dhow, Ya-Hussayn, after its engine room flooded. It was the second time in less than a week that the American military has come to the aid of Iranians at sea, an official said Tuesday.

When American sailors rescued Iranian fisherman from their Somali pirate captors, they were greeted not only with relief and joy, but as those sent by God in answer to the captives prayers.“’It is like you were sent by God,’ said one of the rescued fishermen, Fazel Ur Rehman, 28,’ said, as reported by the New York Times. This is a striking response for many reasons, not least among them that these were U.S. personnel from the same naval strike group which had been threatened by the Iranian navy just days before.

With tension mounting between the two nations, is it surprising that these fisherman would welcome their rescuers, given how much ink is spilled and air time spent reviling the United States in their home country? I don’t think so, and for two reason, both of which should factor into our thinking about how best to deal with Iran.

First, personal encounters in which people are well-served by those about whom they would otherwise be genuinely suspicious can open hearts and change minds. Give someone a chance to feel grateful, even to someone they would not otherwise embrace, and it’s amazing how often their gratitude will trump their politics.

Second, despite the public harangues of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, there is no significant evidence of broad-based hatred of America by Iranians. I would not suggest that there is great love either, but to equate the emotions and intentions of the leadership of a less than democratic state with the will of the people is to give a non-democracy more credit than it deserves.

On the American side, the story here, and one that is especially important to be reminded of as news of the apparent desecration of Taliban dead by a small group of United States Marines is in the news, is that U.S. military policy takes humanitarian obligation very seriously, even to those who we consider enemies or potential enemies. The sailors who boarded that Iranian boat, and all those who up the chain of command which led to that happening honor that tradition and give us reason to be very proud.

Finally, it’s always important to pay close attention to when and how people invoke the concept of divine intervention –in this case, the Iranians were praying for rescue and saw the hand of God in the work of the United States Navy. Did God also send the Somali Pirates? After all, if there is one God, as these Muslims surely believe, then that God is responsible for both the things we like and the things we don’t, right?

Would they see the hand of God in a U.S. act against the Iranian navy? Would they see U.S. victory as a sign that they have lost favor in God’s eyes, perhaps even being punished for past bad acts? In no way am I suggesting that those encounters should or would occur.

I am suggesting however that invoking God is serious business and that if we do so only when we get what we want, we really aren’t invoking God at all – we are simply patting ourselves on the back and insisting that it’s God who is doing the patting.

More on: , ,


Brad Hirschfield An acclaimed author, lecturer, rabbi, and commentator on religion, society and pop culture, Brad Hirschfield offers a unique perspective on the American spiritual landscape and political and social trends to audiences nationwide.
Comments are closed.

Read More Articles

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.