MEDIA STATEMENT BY
PROF. DR. ALİ BARDAKOĞLU,
PRESIDENT OF THE RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS OF TÜRKİYE
On The Occasion Of Receiving The Pope Benedict XVI
During The Visit to Türkiye
(Ankara- November 28, 2006)
The Spiritual Leader of the Catholic World, His Excellency the Pope,
Esteemed Christian Theologians and Men of Religion,
Esteemed Muslim Theologians and Men of Religion,
Esteemed Diplomatic and Political Representatives,
Distinguished Media Representatives,
I greet all of you with respect.
I welcome all of you to our country, a country that has always been the harbor for all the different cultural and religious experiences of mankind and its traditions in all kind all the way through its thousand years old history, and to our Presidency, which regards the preservation of all the differences in belief and culture in an atmosphere of freedom and mutual respect as a humane responsibility.
Anatolia, where our country is located, has been, indeed, the cradle of the Divine religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam and many other ancient religions, cultures and civilizations. We, Muslims who happened to choose Anatolia as homeland, a place which has embraced all the beauties of Islamic Civilization for the last ten centuries, continue, today as in the past, to conceive the preservation of the historical and cultural heritage of the other religions as well as the preservation of the religious and cultural diversity both as respect for the values passed over from the past and the prerequisite for the exalted tolerance of Islam. I hope that our Esteemed Guests will have the opportunity to witness these beauties closely during their stay in our country.
A divine religion is certainly the source of peace and well-being. Religion is a helping hand extended by the Creator to the mankind in order for him to attain happiness in this world and to reach eternal salvation hereafter; it is the knowledge of the Divine truth called onto by Him. Thanks to religion, we know the Creator and ourselves; we comprehend the real meaning of existence, and achieve peace in our internal and external lives . All the prophets of God from Adam to Noah, from Abraham to Moses, from Jesus to Mohammed (peace be upon them all) have been chosen to be the messengers and guides of this Divine call of peace, love and emancipation. What is upon us is to serve mankind to attain peace and tranquility by passing this holy message sent by God and delivered by all the prophets over to the future generations in the best manner possible. We, then, may be the true callers of the absolute good and truth, eternal emancipation and happiness, to the extent that we follow the path of these great emissaries with loyalty and sincerity, and carry this great trust which we have received from them.
However, with the advent of an overwhelmingly profane life style in our era having a deaf ear to the Divine message, we regretfully observe that many adverse factors overshadowed this Divine call leading to a major deviation in our spiritual, ethical and humanitarian world. Consequently, the need of todays people for embracing the religious call, who are struggling with various material and spiritual problems, depressed, and became more alienated and mundane day by day, is no less than as it was yesterday. Hence, we, as men of religion, theologians and religious institutions have to give our utmost effort to help them overcome this state of despair.
Throughout history, the main obstacle against the dictum we all are the children of Adam that the Divine Message has constantly emphasized together with its attached ideal of brotherhood and love, has been the ill-fated human attempt and tendency, who tend to realize self-existence only in association with certain race, religion, language and culture as per manifestation of the divine wisdom, towards using this state of affaires as ground for clashes and distrust, instead of seeing it as the enrichment of mankind. Here, we theologians, who are in a position to lead the believers to truth and goodness, and to guide them, are faced with a very sensitive responsibility. This requires us to preserve not only those religious traditions which we represent and of which we are honored to be a member, but also may be more importantly so act in conformity with the reality that all such religious, ethnic and cultural differences are the manifestation of Divine love, mercy and wisdom. We sincerely believe that that only such a perception and full commitment to its requisites can provide the key assurance for the mankind to live in peace and security.
We also sincerely believe that, the member of different religions and convictions should be able to come together for talking with open mind and should contribute jointly to the solution of the problems faced by mankind, without feeling any need to approve or judge each others religion. Moreover, nobody should use this joint effort in order to proselytize for his own religion or to favor only the members of his own religion. When religious leaders come together, they should concentrate on exploring ways and means to solve the common problems of mankind, without trying to demonstrate the superiority of their own beliefs and without loosing time by discussing the theological details of religions.
We are going through an era called globalization in which the pains of its effects are being deeply felt all over and very high prices are being paid in a manner that shakes the lives of all of us. Education, health, security, nourishment, hunger, poverty and environmental problems, terror and violence, ideological wars and unrelenting wars of self-interest, underdevelopment caused by colonialism and injustice are only a few of these pains. In truth, none of these problems originate from religion. On the contrary, divine religions must have a strong message that can contribute to solutions of these problems. We all have to struggle with the issues not by the discriminative characteristics of religious identities as social phenomena, but by recognition of their identifying and uniting characteristics of divine truths as basis of dialogue and cooperation. We should not let these problems turn into violence, tension, resentment and hatred. We, religious leaders, have an obligation to refuse to be an instrument of tensions and machination of international politics; instead we should continue to contribute to the solution of these urgent social problems. During the last fifty years, much blood and tear have been shed in the Middle East in the name of peace; the dignity and honor of humanity have been disregarded in the name of human rights and democracy, and enough efforts have been exerted to label all types of terror and conflicts as religious. Now, it is high time that we translate our wish for establishing a fair and lasting peace into concrete steps.
The modern world is facing an ethical and moral crisis. This crisis is destroying the nature of mankind, the individual and social life, as well as the mental and moral health of our children. Our world is under the threat of the swift degeneration of family values and harmful habits such as narcotics, prostitution, epidemic diseases and alcohol and many other similar perils. There is no doubt that belief and religious practice play an important role in combating these problems. Religious institutions need to take the lead in the struggle against the erosion of family values, eliminating all types of discrimination against women, raising our children in a sound and healthy condition without any exploitation, preserving the youth from all types of bad habits which they are exposed to.
We, Muslims condemn all types of violence and terror, regardless of whoever commits it against whosever, and we regard it as a crime against humanity. We are the members of a religion which reckons that shedding the blood of an innocent person is a heavy crime and sin equal to killing all humanity. However, we all regret to observe that during the recent times Islamophobia has been in escalation promoting such notions that the religion of Islam with its sources and history encourages violence, that Islam has spread by force of sword and that Muslims are potentially violent. I wish to make it known to all that each member of Islam whose name originates from peace, is very much deeply touched and offended by such accusations and claims which are not based on any historical fact and on any scientific research nor do they commensurate with any sense of justice and fairness. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that such accusations and attempts can only serve to encourage those who perform wrong-doings on behalf of religion by way of exploitation.
Prejudices are nourished mainly by historical fears and concerns. The establishment of universal peace and tranquility should be based on the fact that we, men of religion and religious institutes should not be the captive of such prejudices nourished by such fears and concerns, and we need to act always with common sense.
As is well-known, each religion has its own principles of belief, worship and cultural world. Our religious adherence has no difficulty in recognizing the truths of the previous divine religions, and it, thus , refuses to make any discrimination against any prophets. The basic principles of Islam and its internal categories have firmly established that the reason is the essential criterion in the sphere of both theory and practice. Belief of Allah in Islam forms, as each individuals direct responsibility to God, the basis for freedom of building piety with his own free will in the light of the knowledge of religion and rational thinking. Consequently, we tend to keep always open, in tolerance and mutual respect, the channels of dialogue by taking the true knowledge and good will as a firm basis. We firmly believe that in our world today it is of crucial importance to make any progress in the way of divine realities and humane purposes.
I view this visit of His Holiness the Pope to our country as a positive step towards cultivating a culture of reconciliation amongst the members of different religions, beliefs, cultures and civilizations for prevailing the understanding of mutual respect, justice and rightness, and I wish that this practice through revitalization and implementation would grow stronger on high moral foundations.
As I conclude, I would like to extend my wishes of health and goodness to the esteemed religious leader of the Catholic world, the Pope Benedict XVI, and well being to the Community he represents, and I salute all of you with respect on my behalf and my Presidency .
* For Further Information about the Presidency please click here