Ankara (AsiaNews) - The fanaticism and fundamentalism that kill and have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes in order to save their life and stay true to their beliefs must be countered with respect for religious freedom, dialogue and solidarity among believers, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim. To allow the Middle East to have a solid peace, based on respect for fundamental rights and obligations inherent in the dignity of man.
The dramatic situation of the Middle East, "for too long a theatre of
fratricidal wars, one born of the other, as if the only possible response to
war and violence must be new wars and further acts of violence" was to the focus of Pope Francis'
first speech in Turkey, where he will remain until next Sunday.
Arriving just before 1 pm local time, Francis went to the Ataturk mausoleum where he laid a wreath of flowers. The idea of a Turkey that is a bridge not only between two continents - Europe and Asia - but also between cultures and religions, which marked his first speech already appears in the phrase that the Pope wrote in the Golden Book of the Mausoleum: "I make my most sincere vows for Turkey, a natural bridge between two continents, to be not only a crossroad of paths but also a place of meeting and dialogue and serene coexistence among men and women of good will of every culture, ethnicity and religion".
Following his visit to the Mausoleum the Pope
went to the new presidential
palace. He ws welcomed with the full protocol reserved
for a head of state - visiting the monument to the founder of modern Turkey is part of said protocol -
escorted by a regiment on horseback, the anthems, the cannon shots and
the private meeting with President Recep Tayyip
Erdogan. A dialogue that went on long
beyond the allotted time.
Moreover, dialogue was the focus of the speech that the Pope addressed to the authorities gathered in the palace. A speech in which he spoke of the requirement that all citizens are equal before the law and enjoy equal freedom of belief and expression, which is particularly pertinent to Turkey.
"Today - he said - what is needed is a dialogue which can deepen the understanding and appreciation of the many things which we hold in common. Such a dialogue will allow us to reflect sensibly and serenely on our differences, and to learn from them. There is a need to move forward patiently in the task of building a lasting peace, one founded on respect for the fundamental rights and duties rooted in the dignity of each person. In this way, we can overcome prejudices and unwarranted fears, leaving room for respect, encounter, and the release of more positive energies for the good of all. To this end, it is essential that all citizens - Muslim, Jewish and Christian - both in the provision and practice of the law, enjoy the same rights and respect the same duties. They will then find it easier to see each other as brothers and sisters who are travelling the same path, seeking always to reject misunderstandings while promoting cooperation and concord. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression, when truly guaranteed to each person, will help friendship to flourish and thus become an eloquent sign of peace".
"The Middle East, Europe and the world all await this maturing of friendship. The Middle East, in particular, has for too long been a theatre of fratricidal wars, one born of the other, as if the only possible response to war and violence must be new wars and further acts of violence. How much longer must the Middle East suffer the consequences of this lack of peace? We must not resign ourselves to ongoing conflicts as if the situation can never change for the better! With the help of God, we can and we must renew the courage of peace! Such courage will lead to a just, patient and determined use of all available means of negotiation, and in this way achieve the concrete goals of peace and sustainable development".
"Mr President, interreligious and intercultural dialogue can make an important contribution to attaining this lofty and urgent goal, so that there will be an end to all forms of fundamentalism and terrorism which gravely demean the dignity of every man and woman and exploit religion. Fanaticism and fundamentalism, as well as irrational fears which foster misunderstanding and discrimination, need to be countered by the solidarity of all believers. This solidarity must rest on the following pillars: respect for human life and for religious freedom, that is the freedom to worship and to live according to the moral teachings of one's religion; commitment to ensuring what each person requires for a dignified life; and care for the natural environment. The peoples and the states of the Middle East stand in urgent need of such solidarity, so that they can "reverse the trend" and successfully advance a peace process, repudiating war and violence and pursuing dialogue, the rule of law, and justice".
"Sadly, to date, we are still witnessing grave conflicts. In Syria and Iraq, particularly, terrorist violence shows no signs of abating. Prisoners and entire ethnic populations are experiencing the violation of the most basic humanitarian laws. Grave persecutions have taken place in the past and still continue today to the detriment of minorities, especially - though not only - Christians and Yazidis. Hundreds of thousands of persons have been forced to abandon their homes and countries in order to survive and remain faithful to their religious beliefs".
"Turkey, which has generously welcomed a great number of refugees, is directly affected by this tragic situation on its borders; the international community has the moral obligation to assist Turkey in taking care of these refugees. In addition to providing much needed assistance and humanitarian aid, we cannot remain indifferent to the causes of these tragedies. In reaffirming that it is licit, while always respecting international law, to stop an unjust aggressor, I wish to reiterate, moreover, that the problem cannot be resolved solely through a military response. What is required is a concerted commitment on the part of all, based on mutual trust, which can pave the way to lasting peace, and enable resources to be directed, not to weaponry, but to the other noble battles worthy of man: the fight against hunger and sickness, the fight for sustainable development and the protection of creation, and the relief of the many forms of poverty and marginalization of which there is no shortage in the world today. Turkey, by virtue of its history, geographical position and regional influence, has a great responsibility: the choices which Turkey makes and its example are especially significant and can be of considerable help in promoting an encounter of civilizations and in identifying viable paths of peace and authentic progress".