On January 15, 2004, JWF’s Intercultural Dialogue Platform organized a panel for spiritual leaders, intellectuals, artists, journalists, and writers at the Taksim Hilton Hotel in Istanbul. They discussed dialogue and world peace during the event, which was titled “Common Moral Values in the Three Monotheistic Religions.”
As people of Turkey, we need to utilize our ethnic mosaic and geopolitical advantages and do everything in our capacity for world peace.
The opening speech was given by general co-coordinator Prof. Niyazi Oktem, who outlined the purpose and content of the meeting. Then prayers were read in different languages by various religious group leaders, including Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomeos I, Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II, Chief Rabbi Rev. Ishak Haleva, Latin Catholic Community Spiritual Leader Monsignor Louis Pelatre, Syrian Ancient Community Metropolitan Yusuf Cetin, and Mufti of Istanbul Prof. Dr. Mustafa Cagrici.
After the prayers, the panel considered issues related to moral values and terrorism. Panel contributors included Prof. Omer Faruk Harman, Rev. Ishak Haleva, Priest Sahak Masalyan, Monk Dositheos Anagnostopoulos, Pere Gwenole Jusset and Syrian Ancient Community leader Yakup Tahincioglu.
Yusuf Altintas pointed out that because Turkey exemplifies how people with different beliefs but shared cultural values can live in harmony, it should set an example for other nations. Altintas said, “As people of Turkey, we need to utilize our ethnic mosaic and geopolitical advantages and do everything in our capacity for world peace.”
Armenian Orthodox Community member Sahak Mashalyan explained the differences between religion and terror. “Religion promotes the practice and sustainability of moral values. World religions revolve around the notion of punishment and reward, which is the essence of religious morality,” Mashalyan said. “In religious terror, minorities joining majorities consider them being minority as being sustainable and more valuable. Religious terror is the ripest fruit of fundamentalism.”
Yakup Tahincioglu from the Syrian community started his speech by speaking of his memories of the past and emphasized that he is disturbed when the words religion and terror are used together. “Terror is a pre-mature baby of individual obsessions and cruelties. The followers of the three religions should pray to God and ask for the rehabilitation of such people,” Tahincioglu said. “Look at those who fill the mosques with the holy sound of the call to prayer rising from minarets like hands opening to the sky! Do these not mean anything to you? Nobody will benefit from the efforts of planting seeds of evil in this.”
Prof. Dr. Ömer Faruk Harman commented on the causes of terrorism. Noting that man was created to serve and worship God, Harman stated that lack of education results in the formation of groups that conduct terrorist acts. He asked, “How can a person kill innocent people without hesitation while on the other hand, we know of Prophet Job’s patience in protecting his religion?”
Harman also pointed out that religious communities have an important responsibility and role to play in understanding holy texts. He emphasized that common values should be identified, internalized, and implemented. He also suggested that members of the three religions issue a joint declaration.
Overall, the speakers’ opinions and sentiments usually focused on increasing proper religious education and instruction and making declarations of common messages.
The meeting concluded after thanks were given to JWF’s chairmen, General Co-coordinator of the Intercultural Dialogue Platform Prof. Niyazi Oktem and Secretary General Cemal Usak.