Pope Francis is playing with fire

Published 13.04.2015 22:27

Pope Francis has let the cat out of the bag by calling the 1915 incidents "the first genocide of the 20th century" and claiming that Turks have been involved in the mass killing of Armenians.

For us Turks the pope has committed a colossal mistake in more than one way with serious repercussions not only on Turkey's ties with the Vatican but also on relations between the Holy See and Islam. For the Armenians, it is a "victory" of some kind and a source of jubilation but we feel that too could be short lived as it will only create new complications in international politics with little benefits for world peace.

The pope had no reason to enter this debate between the Turks and Armenians especially at this crucial time over an incident as explosive as this and on events which hardly needs his immediate attention while he has to concentrate on much more pressing issues that threaten global security and the future of the Catholic Church.

It is clear that all this was a well-orchestrated game with the pope making his statement in the presence of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and Catholicos Karekin II, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

The Armenians are obsessed with getting the world to call the events of 1915 an act of genocide and they feel that now they have the Vatican on board they can expand their quest to other countries, especially the United States.

When the pope is so knee-deep in international politics and taking sides on a historical matter, one starts to wonder why the Vatican is so involved in the Armenian issue at this point of time. It seems the pope is trying to highlight the persecution of Christians, especially in countries where Muslims are in a majority, and thus wants to highlight the plight of the Armenians 100 years ago. But wouldn't he be better advised to concentrate on the events of today and see that Turkey is always in the forefront in preaching moderation, tolerance and peace in the Islamic world.

Turkey, the modern home of the Islamic faith, has always been an island of tolerance and understanding for members of different religions, led by Jews and Christians. Turkey, as a country that preaches the true values of Islam, has been declared an enemy by all the so-called extremist Islamic forces. Today Turkey is promoting the values of Islamic civilization created by Prophet Muhammad. These values mean living in a society of many cultures, different religions and languages under the laws and moral rules of coexistence.

So trying to hurt Turkey which is the anti-dote of religious extremism is simply counterproductive and probably an act of suicide.

Antagonizing Turkey and trying to harass it with the genocide issue will only sharpen the anti-Armenian sentiments in Turkish society and prevent Turkish leaders from making any new gestures to mend fences with the Armenians. Last year when he was prime minister, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan offered "condolences" to the descendants of the Armenian dead and expressed hope for "compassion and mutually humane attitudes toward one another." This was a bold move on the part of Erdoğan, who has repeatedly called for a joint historical commission to establish a definitive record of the events, seeking to settle a century of mutual recriminations between Turks and Armenians. Instead of heeding his calls the Armenians have preferred to follow a course of confrontation, which, to say the least, is irresponsible.

The Vatican would be better advised to help Turkey in its quest to create a new environment where Muslims, Christians and Jews can coexist side by side in peace in our countries like Prophet Muhammad did in Medina. Are we asking for too much?

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