Clerics from three religions sat together on Monday evening at a meal organized by Turkish Muslims. In a sign of interfaith dialogue, rabbis and priests attended the iftar, or fast-breaking meal, at an event in Istanbul's Beşiktaş district.
The crowd gathered around the tables under a huge tent at the district's Ortaköy Square next to the Bosporus, at an Ottoman-era mosque built by an Armenian architect. Among the guests at the dinner hosted by the Beşiktaş municipality were Turkish Jewish community leader İshak İbrahimzadeh, Chief Rabbi of Turkey İsak Haleva, Patriarchal Vicar and Metropolitan Bishop Yusuf Çetin of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Bishop Irineos of Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Istanbul mufti and Professor Rahmi Yaran, and Bishop Sahak Mashalian of the Armenian church.
Speaking at the dinner held at end of the first day of fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Rahmi Yaran said the world needs to hear the message that clerics gave by joining the dinner. "Istanbul and the rest of Turkey have been lands where people of different religions have peacefully coexisted for centuries. This is what we see this evening and by Allah's will, this peaceful coexistence will spread to other parts of the world," he said.
Chief Rabbi İsak Haleva said Ramadan was "a great gift for Islamic world from Allah" and the month helped strengthening bonds of love between people and keep them distanced from hatred. "May this month be a blessing for Turkey and Islamic world."
Metropolitan Bishop Yusuf Çetin of the Syriac Orthodox Church said the dialogue was needed for peace and love, along with empathy. "Fasting makes people to experience by themselves how a hungry person feels and drives them to help others in need," he said.
The iftar dinner included a performance by whirling dervishes as well as the singing of Islamic hymns.