Panel Seeks Interfaith Harmony through Example of Blessed Virgin Mary

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An international panel titled “The Virgin Mary in the Holy Bible and The Holy Qur’an” was jointly organized by JWF’s Intercultural Dialogue Platform (IDP), the Roma Tevere Instituto, and the Izmir Intercultural Dialogue Center on November 1-2, 2013, at the WOW Istanbul Convention Center.

The Virgin Mary has been a source of inspiration for many. No other woman in history has been as influential as Mary, the woman of few words.

Bishop Sahak Mashalian, Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul

Attended by numerous specialists in the field, the two-day panel examined the Blessed Virgin Mary in both Christianity and Islam, featuring sessions such as “The Virgin Mary’s Mystical Character from the Islamic Perspective” and “The Virgin Mary in the Holy Bible.” Each of the six sessions included a moderator and two speakers, as well as time for questions and answers.

The goal of the panel was to bring Christians and Muslims together through their common appreciation of the Virgin Mary and deepen their understanding of her significance in both religions.

The panel’s opening remarks were given by Chorepiscopus Yusuf Sag, Vicar General and leader of the Syriac Catholic Church in Turkey; Cemalnur Sargut, director of the Turkish Women’s Cultural Association in Istanbul; Prof. Muhit Mert, dean of Fatih University’s Faculty of Theology; and JWF President Mustafa Yesil.

Throughout the program’s sessions, participants discussed commonalities between the two religions’ veneration of the Virgin Mary. For example, Bishop Sahak Mashalian of the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul said two women — namely, the Virgin Mary and Eve — have always been revered in monotheistic religions.

“The Virgin Mary has been a source of inspiration for many,” Bishop Mashalian said. “No other woman in history has been as influential as Mary, the woman of few words.”

In another session, Emine Eroglu, editor-in-chief of Timas Publishing, noted that God sent a message to the male-dominated community of the time by naming Jesus as “Jesus, Son of Mary.”

As the panel drew to a close, a committee of presenters gathered to draft a concluding statement, following a video clip on the Virgin Mary. The declaration committee was chaired by Prof. Omer Faruk Harman and included Professor Catherine Joseph Droste, Dr. Mustafa Alici, Dr. Ismail Taspinar, and Kadriye Erdemli.

The statement noted that the Virgin Mary broke many taboos of her time, and her example has empowered women throughout history.

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