Over the years, Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen, honorary president of the Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF), has demonstrated the value of interfaith dialogue by meeting with respected religious leaders, including the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Catholic pope, and the chief rabbi of Israel.
As religious leaders, we have to show everyone the road to peace. We have to show them peace and love with this [interfaith] meeting.
Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, Chief Rabbi of Israel
Gulen met with various Christian and Jewish leaders in the 1990s, including Patriarch Bartholomew I, Pope John Paul II, and Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, for the purpose of advocating interfaith dialogue and tolerance.
Gulen’s first meeting with the Patriarch Bartholomew I, leader of the Greek Orthodox Church, took place in 1996. This meeting marked the first time a leader of a civil Islamic community had met with a Christian religious leader since the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. This gesture was seen as a symbolic attempt to overcome centuries-old doubts and misconceptions.
In 1998, Gulen met with Pope John Paul II in what was arguably the most visible reflection of his interfaith dialogue efforts. Monsignor George Marovitch, a Vatican diplomatic official in Turkey, was also present at the meeting. The leaders discussed several ideas for strengthening interfaith dialogue initiatives. First, an independent university could be established in Harran, Turkey, to meet the needs of the three Abrahamic religions. Second, representatives of these religions could organize interfaith conferences in the USA and in major capitals throughout the world. Finally, Jerusalem could be declared a free zone for members of all faiths.
In 1999, Gulen met with Israel’s Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron. Bakshi-Doron stated that he appreciated and valued Gulen’s efforts for peace and tolerance. “As religious leaders, we have to show everyone the road to peace,” Bakshi-Doron said. “We have to show them peace and love with this meeting. Mr. Gulen is an important personality in the Islamic world; therefore, I wished to meet with him.”
Other Dialogue-Based Meetings
Gulen also met with other representatives of monotheistic religions, which include the following leaders and professors:
- Francis Cardinal Arinze, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
- Pier Luigi Celata, ambassador of the Vatican to Ankara
- John Cardinal O’Connor, Catholic Archbishop of New York
- Prof. Sidney Griffith, head of the department of research in early Christianity, Catholic University of America
- Dale E. Eickelman, professor of anthropology and human rights, Dartmouth College
- Presidents of the American Jewish Organizations Confederation Delegation
- Representatives from the World Church Organization
- Metropolitan Bishop Yusuf Cetin and Bishop Samuel Akdemir, leaders of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Turkey
- David Asseo, chief rabbi of Turkey
- Armenian Patriarch Karekin II
- Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II