This reflection focuses on the ‘Abant spirit’ of love, tolerance, dialogue, and sincerity, tracing its development from the first Abant meeting in 1998 to the 15th Abant meeting in November 2007.
The new constitution should be able to demonstrate our need for change in our mentality, democratic maturity, and the progress we have made in terms of a culture of conciliation.
The Abant Platform that discussed “Islam and Secularism” in its first meeting in July 1998 held another meeting in Izmit, Kartepe, to discuss Turkey’s new constitution. This was the 15th convention, including an interim meeting. In an effort to make my point clearer, I would like to recall the themes discussed at the Abant meetings so far:
- “Religion, State, and Society” (1999)
- “Legal Democratic State” (2000)
- “Pluralism and Societal Compromise” (2001)
- “Globalization” (2002)
- “War and Democracy” (2003)
- “Islam, Democracy, and Secularism: The Turkish Experience” (April 2004, Washington D.C.)
- “Turkey’s EU Membership Process: Culture, Identity, Religion” (December 2004, Brussels)
- “On the Verge of a New Age: New Pursuits in Education” (2005, Erzurum)
- “Republic, Cultural Pluralism, and Europe” (March 2006, Paris)
- “Global Policies and the Future of the Middle East” (2006, Bolu)
- “Islam, the West, and Modernization” (February 2007, Cairo)
- “Historical, Cultural, and Folkloric Dimensions of Alevism” (March 2007, Istanbul)
- “Turkish-French Conversations: Perceptions and Realities” (April 2007, Istanbul)
Almost all matters that concern the Turkish nation as a whole have been discussed through the Abant spirit, which has matured and evolved over time.
The Abant spirit has a criterion for sincerity. Those who felt pain, wanted to seek a remedy, and were actively involved in the resolution of the problem with sincerity carried that spirit. Sincerity was not enough, however; it was also necessary to be able to listen, expend effort to understand, and be tolerant. You had to set your heart on the endeavor to ensure success through the Abant spirit; you had to be brave enough to tackle the obstacles. Sometimes those who failed to appreciate this spirit and were unaware of the value of this magnificent endeavor that would contribute so much to the promotion of the country also attended the meetings. But the Abant spirit was so strong and mature that it was able to proceed without making any negative references to opponents. This spirit ensured the emergence of a collaborative action seeking the joint resolution of common problems among a group of intellectuals who have been quarrelling for two centuries. It was the strength of love, tolerance, dialogue, and sincerity. The Abant spirit was something expected by the masses for centuries.
No matter whether it is being realized, our persistence for democratic pursuits is based on this spirit. Both our politics and media are being influenced by this spirit, which also contributes to the resolution of the Kurdish question via tolerance. The confession expressed by those who referred to the Abant meetings as a justification for the February 28, 1997, military intervention in the past and their admittance that they actually made a mistake shows the solid base of the Abant spirit, which puts special emphasis on the statement: “Differences cannot be reasons for conflicts; diversity is our richness.” Turkey now has a great opportunity to devise a new constitution that can claim to resolve the deep-seated problems of the country. Some still seek polarization and tension. They are bothered by this agenda that bears discussions on the constitution. Whereas the majority has no problem with secularism in this country, they are trying to incite a conflict based on a secular/anti-secular divide. The Abant spirit that reminded us of its presence at Kartepe will not grant this opportunity to them.
We found a peaceful venue like the Abant Platform via the hill of democracy. We have to get some good rest there. The new constitution should be able to demonstrate our need for change in our mentality, democratic maturity, and the progress we have made in terms of a culture of conciliation. The Abant spirit is just enough for bravery and decisiveness.