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"I trust in the beauty found in the make-up of humanity"

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Global Perspectives

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Your Most Respected Holiness,

We bring you the sincerest greetings from the people of the land known to be the birthplace of the three great religions, people who have full knowledge of your sacred mission to make the world a better place in which to live. We also thank you from the bottom of our hearts for granting us an audience, and for taking time from your most hectic schedule.

We are here to be a part of the continuing mission of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID), instituted by His Holiness Pope Paul VI. We would like to see this mission reach fruition. We come to you most humbly, yet with some audacity, to offer our modest assistance in accomplishing this most worthy task.

Islam has been a misunderstood religion, and for this the Muslims are mostly to blame. A timely effort in an appropriate venue can help to greatly reduce this misunderstanding. The Muslim world would welcome the opportunity for a dialogue that would work toward eradicating centuries-old misconceptions about Islam.

Humankind, from time to time, has denied religion in the name of science and denied science in the name of religion, arguing that the two present conflicting views. All knowledge belongs to God and religion is from God. How could the two then be in conflict? To this end, our joint efforts directed toward inter-religious dialogue to improve understanding and tolerance among people can go a long way.

We have, in our country, been in dialogue with the leaders of several Christian denominations for sometime now. We humbly claim that these modest efforts have not been in vain. Our goal is to establish fraternity among the faithful of the three great religions through tolerance and understanding. We can, by coming together, stand up against those misguided souls and skeptics to act as breakers, barriers if you will, against those who wish to see the so-called clash of civilizations become a reality.

Last year we held a symposium on peace and tolerance between civilizations, attended by international scholars of some renown. Encouraged by the unqualified success of this effort, we would like to try to repeat the event. We are currently in the process of organizing a conference on inter-religious dialogue directed toward strengthening the bond among the adherents of the three great religions; an event at which we hope the Vatican will be present.

We will be pleased and greatly honored if you would be kind enough to accept the invitation extended to you by Mr. Demirel[1] to visit our country so that your Holiness can see the holy places in Turkey. The people of Anatolia await with great eagerness the possibility to demonstrate their hospitality and to warmly welcome you. After discussing the matter with the Palestinian leaders we are able to secure an invitation to jointly visit Jerusalem; a visit that may prove to be a significant step toward efforts to proclaim that sacred city an international zone; a place where Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike would be free to go on pilgrimage with no restrictions, without even needing a visa.

We also would like to propose the establishment of a conference series to be held in different world capitals on a rotational basis, the initial one being held in Washington D.C., with the collaboration of the leaders of the three great faiths. The timing for the second series might be ideal for the occasion of the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Christ.

A student exchange program would also be most beneficial. Having young people of faith study together will enhance their affinity for each other. Within the framework of a student exchange program, a college of divinity could be established in Harran, in the Urfa Province, known as the birth place of Prophet Abraham, who is professed to be the father of the three great religions. This could be accomplished by expanding the programs at Harran University or in setting up an independent university with a comprehensive curriculum that would satisfy the needs of all three faiths. The latter may prove problematical owing to obstacles due to state policies.

The suggested programs may sound overambitious, but they are well within reach. There are two types of people in the world: conformist and non-conformist. Conformists try to adopt themselves to whatever takes place in society. Not-conformists, on the other hand, try to adopt the society to perennial values and to favorable new developments. Therefore, all the progress in society is due to non-conformist people. Thank God for non-conformist people.

M. Fethullah Gülen,
God's humble servant

[1] Süleyman Demirel (b. 1924): Eighth president of Turkey.

The letter which Gülen presented to Pope John Paul II during his historical visit to the Vatican on February, 8, 1998.