Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has paid tribute to Jesus Christ in a Christmas message, continuing a tradition of leaders of the Islamic republic touching on the commonalities of Islam and Christianity during the season.
In a message to Pope Francis, Rouhani said humanity should emulate Jesus as a role model.
“Jesus Christ was the harbinger of monotheism and a messenger of kindness, altruism, freedom and salvation,” he said.
“Reflecting upon the characteristics and virtues of Jesus Christ, and looking up to his demeanor and lifestyle, which was always associated with kindness and tolerance, can help tackle the social and cultural challenges facing humanity today, serve as balm for its sufferings, save man from problems and be a path to human perfection,” he added.
Rouhani also said he prayed that “the blessings associated with the birthday of Jesus Christ” would be followed with a better new year in which the “evil Covid-19 virus will be controlled and contained”.
“I ask God Almighty to bestow health and success on Your Excellency and I wish all people around the world prosperity and dignity,” he added.
Earlier, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sent a similar Christmas message, describing Jesus as the “Spirit of God” revered by Muslims.
“I wish all a very Merry Christmas, and a happy, healthy and peaceful holiday season,” he said.
Christians make up just about 1% of Iran’s population of 82 million, with around 600 churches nationwide.