Conference Rallies Support for Intercultural Tolerance and Dialogue

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On September 30, 1996, the Journalists and Writers Foundation organized an international conference titled “Hand-in-Hand for a Happier Tomorrow” at the Lutfi Kirdar Convention Center in Istanbul, Turkey.

I think our key to gaining back what we have lost is to accept each other … If need be, a tolerance foundation should be established at every corner [of the world]; everyone must breathe tolerance.

Fethullah Gulen, Honorary Chairman of the Journalists and Writers Foundation

The conference focused on tolerance and coexistence in an increasingly globalized world. Attendees included Georges Marovitch, the Vatican’s Istanbul representative; Bishop Louis Pelatre, Titular Bishop of Sasimes Apostolic Vicar of Istanbul; Isa Karatas, spokesperson of Turkey’s Protestant Presbyterian Congress; and Fotis Ksidas from the Greek Consulate.

Conference speakers highlighted the importance of tolerance, dialogue, and education.

Prominent Jewish businessman Uzeyir Garih underscored the need for education as a way to increase mutual understanding and respect. “At this moment, education is being conducted for the present people to embrace each other and start relations,” Garih said.

Fethullah Gulen, JWF’s Honorary Chairman, emphasized the contemporary relevance of action and dialogue. “We failed to appreciate each other among ourselves and as a result we lost our paradise,” Gulen said. “I think our key to gaining back what we have lost is to accept each other. In fact, the last three years proved that our society has been longing for tolerance and dialogue.”

Gulen also expressed his hope that intellectuals and members of the media would lead the way in establishing dialogue, and that politicians would revise their leadership styles accordingly. “I express my wish for our dreams to come true and say [we are] hand in hand with tolerance for the future. If need be, a tolerance foundation should be established at every corner; everyone must breathe tolerance. We have to try to stop anyone who might be planning a dark future while they are still a possibility,” Gulen said.

Responding to Gulen’s comments, Patriarch Bartholomeos I said, “Fethullah Gulen and I love each other very much. He is a symbol of peace, tolerance, and all admirable human values.”

The views shared at the conference offered an alternate outlook on the future compared to the “clash of civilizations” hypothesis recently popularized by political scientist Samuel Huntington.