Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Saturday paid courtesy visits to religious leaders in İstanbul to contribute to the continuation of religious peace in the Balkans, Middle East and elsewhere.
Within this frame, Davutoğlu received Deyrulzafaran Monastery Metropolitan Saliba Özmen at the Four Seasons Hotel in İstanbul. During the meeting with Özmen, Davutoğlu stressed the importance Turkey attached to dialogue in surrounding countries.
Davutoğlu later visited Greek Patriarch Bartholomew I. Speaking to reporters after the visit, Davutoğlu said that it was their main principle to see all religious communities sharing a common cultural life in peace.
Bartholomew I, on his part, said that they were pleased with Davutoğlu's visit. “We told Minister Davutoğlu that we pray for the health of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan daily. Erdoğan's health is important not only for Turkey but for global peace as well,” Bartholomew I said.
Davutoğlu also visited the patriarchal vicar of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Turkey, Mor Filiksinos Yusuf Çetin, Syriac Catholic church leader Chorepiscopus Yusuf Sağ, and İshak Haleva, the chief rabbi of Turkey's Jewish community.
Talking to reporters before visiting Çetin at the Church of the Virgin Mary (Meryem ana) Davutoğlu underlined the importance of the Syriac tradition within cultural history. Commenting on the equal rights of Syriac citizens in the context of today's modern state, Davutoğlu noted that they are entitled to benefit from the comprehensive manner of religious freedom. Davutoğlu also expressed his belief that the Syriac community will pay a huge contribution to regional peace and stability. Talking about the contributions Syriacs have made to the religion of Islam during the meeting with Davutoğlu, Çetin said, “We love this country. Both during the Ottoman Empire and after the establishment of the Turkish republic we sided with our state [Turkey].” Çetin also said that Syriacs s living abroad make significant efforts for Turkey and see themselves as a part of the country.
During the foreign minister's visit to the Syriac Catholic church the importance of the inter-religious dialogue was emphasized. Both sides called for joint work in assisting Muslims and Christians in the Middle East to live in peace.
Visiting the Chief Rabbinate in the evening hours because of Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, Davutoğlu again mentioned the importance of inter-religious dialogue and said that Jewish citizens are an essential element in Turkey.
Davutoğlu also paid visits to Armenian Deputy Patriarch of Turkey Aram Ateshyan. Davutoğlu said that in the future all prejudices will be left beyond, and a stable peace will be established both in Turkey and in the Caucasus. Davutoğlu stated that one of the main elements is to establish mutual understanding among religious communities and to transfer this to the political sphere. Patriarch Ateshyan said that until the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power in Turkey, no ministers or deputies in the country knew the way to the Patriarchate. Representing the Armenian community living in Turkey as an integral part of the country, Ateshyan said, “If Armenians are deported from Turkey, one of Turkey's two legs will be crippled.”