Turk Extols Religions as Sources of Peace
President of Religious Affairs Calls for Common Efforts

ANKARA, Turkey, NOV. 29, 2006 ( Zenit.org).- In his welcome address to Benedict XVI, Turkey's president of religious affairs appealed to all religious leaders for common efforts to build peace and to resolve the crisis of values that grips humanity.

In his intervention Tuesday at the Religious Affairs Directorate ("Diyanet") prior to the Pope's address, Ali Bardakoglu said that "religions are surely sources of peace" and that "from Abraham to Moses, from Jesus to Mohammed, all the prophets have spoken of this message of peace and salvation and made themselves bearers of this heavy burden."

Appealing to the representatives of the various religions, Bardakoglu called them to "follow in their footsteps of light and to carry forward this very great charge of the message of peace and salvation to all of humanity."

"Only through this will we succeed in obtaining a lasting peace in this world," he observed. "We Muslims seek to protect all this cultural and religious patrimony that is found in our country and we regard it as one of our primary responsibilities."

Sketching a picture of present-day society characterized by a profound materialism, the president of religious affairs then observed that "the man who remains isolated and sad has a greater need and demand for religions than in the past."

"The fact that we are all children of Abraham should make us perceive plurality in an ethnic, religious and cultural sense as a richness to further mutual understanding," Bardakoglu said.

"Because of this we religious leaders have a notable responsibility," he continued. "But we must not only seek to keep alive the principle of our own religions, we must also seek to make it understood that this religious, ethnic and cultural plurality is a richness willed by God.

"This will surely be a healthy basis for the building of peace."

Condemns violence

"The representatives of all the religions should have the capacity to unite the resources together, without discussing necessarily others' point of view," the Turkish official said, putting the accent on the need to "seek to walk together on the basis of communication and continue on to common values."

"Without putting oneself in a position of showing that one's religion is better than the others, religious leaders should unite their efforts to create a healthy basis for peace," he affirmed.

The Muslim leader then condemned "in an absolute manner all violence against humanity regardless of where it comes from. We belong to a religion that considers the execution of an innocent man as the killing of the whole of humanity."

At the same time, "we are against Islamophobia which seeks to show Islam as the source of all this violence and terrible acts. All Muslims suffer profoundly because of these accusations," Bardakoglu continued.

"To give voice to all these kinds of approaches which fuel prejudices would involuntarily and perhaps also indirectly translate in sustaining the authors of violence," he commented.

But at the same time "all the blood shed in the Middle East and all the forces seeking to show religions as the sources of these conflicts render our mission even more difficult."

Changing the focus of his discourse, Bardakoglu affirmed that "this modern world must face drastically a moral and human crisis, which disturbs the mental health of all." He added: "Our religions contain in themselves answers and solutions for these ills."

At this point, Turkey's president of religious affairs pointed out that by joining forces it is even possible "to eliminate injustice in confrontations with women," "to create a healthy atmosphere in which our children can grow " and "to help young people to remove the weight of drugs."

"These problems," he said, "can be surmounted through our common collaboration."