In an interview he gave to a US daily newspaper, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has praised well-known Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen for his efforts to build intercultural dialogue in Turkey and the world.
“He builds bridges, and religion should build bridges,” said the Patriarch. “This is why we need the dialogues. Not to have religious fanatics who divide people. The idea is to bring people of faith together for the benefit of humankind,” he told Chicago Tribune’s John Kass.
Gülen is a Turkish Islamic scholar well known for his teachings promoting mutual understanding and tolerance between cultures. Now residing in the USA in Pennsylvania, Gülen has pioneered educational activities in a number of countries, along with efforts to promote intercultural and interfaith activities around the world. He has written nearly 50 books in Turkish, some of which have been translated into several languages. He was most recently honored with the East-West Institute’s (EWI) 2011 EWI Peace Building Award for his contribution to world peace.
During the interview, Bartholomew also expressed pleasure over the Turkish government’s recent “positive” moves with regards to minority rights. “These are political questions,” Bartholomew said, “but the changes have been extremely positive. Years ago, you couldn’t have dreamed of the changes. You couldn’t have believed it.” He added, “the prime minister has promised to restore properties confiscated from Christians and Jews years ago. He has promised to reopen the Orthodox seminary at Halki, which has been closed for many years.” He also referred to the democratization of business in Istanbul and the recently “thriving” middle-class.
“Of course, we have concerns in some areas, and there are legal questions remaining, but the Orthodox-Islamic dialogue has been extremely positive. More positive than I ever would have imagined,” the Patriarch added, expressing the Patriarchate’s need and right to have a legal status in the country.
“Happy Easter to everyone, peace and love to the Christians and to all,” wished the Ecumenical Patriarch through his interview with the US newspaper.