Pope Francis will be in Turkey today for a three-day visit where he will not only attend a major event at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, thus creating new avenues of reconciliation between the two churches, but he will also meet Turkish political leaders and the religious leader of our country, who is starting to emerge as a leading Islamic figure in the world as Turkey spearheads efforts to lead and uphold the superior values of Islam.
The reconciliation between the two churches is, of course, good for world peace and harmony, but it is the pope's meeting with Turkish leaders, especially with the president of the Directorate of Religious Affairs (DİB), Mehmet Görmez, that is of most importance for us.
Turkey and its giant DİB apparatus is against the term "dialogue between religions" and wants to work with the Vatican as a partner to create the global environment where churches, synagogues and mosques can exist side by side with none of them trying to impose their will on the other and faithfully practice their religion without any hindrance.
Görmez has told this columnist that "talking about a dialogue between religions is not right as a definition. No one would want to have his religion and his theological understanding be confirmed by another religious structure. Such a dialogue is not only unrealistic, it is also against the essence of religions. What should happen is that we should have solidarity between devout religious people on social and global issues, but not among religions. It is important for the peace of humanity that we should work like partners with all religious entities for the establishment of peace based on justice."
It is vital to create conditions to allow Christians to practice their faith throughout the Islamic world without being persecuted or being forced out of their lands.
Here, Muslims have to make an effort to secure this, but of course, everyone has to accept the fact that on the lands where even Muslims cannot guarantee their own safety in the hands of the extremists who claim to be acting in the name of Islam, the mission is hard.
Our Christian brothers and sisters have to agree that while we have to look at the causes of this extremism within our own fundamental system, we also have to look at the mistaken policies of the West that has alienated Muslims.
One such issue is Islamophobia, which the pope, as well as Western leaders, have to address in earnest.
It is unfortunate that hatred of Islam that mushroomed into a major global crisis after the 9/11 terrorist attacks has become a serious menace for world peace.
If a majority of Muslims throughout the world are not reacting harshly to this situation it is because their culture and civilization, as well as their faith, teaches them moderation and tolerance. Yet, we see that while Western leaders pretend to address the issue in essence, they stall and allow those who thrive on Islamophobia to prevail. This situation has to stop.
The pope has to see that he will be getting together with an important and prominent Islamic figure when he meets Görmez.
The Vatican is fully aware of the growing prominence of DİB on the world scene – especially among the Muslims of the world as the peaceful and compassionate face of Islam. DİB has put Turkey on the map as the standard bearer of the flag of Islam with its activities throughout the globe.
The Vatican will have an important partner in Görmez provided they really want to do their piece.