Last week, Turkey remained in the global spotlight as it hosted two high-profile personalities — Pope Francis and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It was heartening to see the pope visiting the mausoleum of Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, and the Sultanahmet Mosque. During his visit to the mosque, he said: “I could not have said I had come here as a tourist. I saw the magnificence of the place... I felt a particular need to pray for peace.” At every given opportunity he reiterated that the Holy Qur’an was a book of peace. However, in addition to these pleasantries, many people were expecting some special message for Turkey or the Muslim community in general but that did not happen. There are several reasons for this.
Due to the spiritual leadership of the global Catholic community, papacy is of paramount importance. The presence of peace-loving spiritual leaders in the world is always influential and important. The presence of a person, who holds great sway on the 1.2 billion Catholics across the globe, becomes all the more important and meaningful. It would be instructive to mention here that since the mid-1800s, the papacy has come under the influence of various overt and covert secret political players and has assumed an entirely symbolic importance, so much so that global balances have generally been shaped around superiority between churches. One can even look at the current Ukraine problem from that perspective.
Every new pope has visited Turkey. What they all have in common is that the timing of their visits coincides with the feast of Saint Andrew during the holy week of the Orthodox Church. Efforts to resolve the rift between the two churches that began in the 9th Century but became official with mutual anathemas in 1054 are an excellent thing. But they are not enough.
Let us explain this. These days when the world is wracked by wars and divisions, there is a great need for deeper understanding of faith and the consequent belief system. In such a scenario, spiritual leaders need to collaborate on faith-related issues to save the world. These efforts need the support of empirical evidence to guide the world to the true path and to prove the world with the help of scientific knowledge the existence of Allah. This approach is far better and effective than paying mere lip service by issuing statements such as “All Muslim leaders must condemn terrorism” or “World peace must come.”
If the aim is really to eliminate terror by working with Muslims then the world needs to pay attention to the messages of creation and peace in the divine scriptures without further ado. An effective and comprehensive education campaign is required in places, which have become the hotbeds of terrorism. First and foremost, Muslims should forge unity among their ranks and then create an alliance with spiritual Christians. This will produce very good results. However, in order to achieve this goal, we don’t need political clichés but faith-based activities.
The pope’s visit to Turkey goes no further than reconciling the two churches in order to find a solution to the Christian community’s loss of supporters, and thus to achieve numerical superiority once again, keeping an important Muslim country in a very lively part of the world on side and “expected” condemnations of terror. However, at a time when people are abandoning Christianity for irreligion, the pope needs to have the strength as a spiritual leader to summon them back to faith. The responsibility upon him is a very great one.
The second major event last week was Putin’s visit. After having been faced with stern faces at the G-20 summit and now facing difficulties due to sanctions and falling oil prices, the Russian leader was welcomed to Turkey with a pleasant ceremony.
It is true that “agreements based on mutual interests” were discussed during the meetings, and that is what many writers have discussed. However, the term “national interests” that many use so easily and carelessly, in fact means, “I am selfish.” The aspect of the summit that really needs to be emphasized therefore goes far beyond trade agreements. The peoples of Turkey and Russia have been friends ever since Ottoman times. That friendship continued even in times of economic collapse or political crisis. That friendship may not always have meant “mutual interests,” but the friendship persisted.
These meetings with Russia may look like a risk for Turkey from several points of view. At the end of the day, Turkey is a member of NATO. It is a candidate for EU membership. It is reluctant to be part of the harsh sanctions imposed on Russia by its allies — the US and the EU. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says as much quite explicitly. Yet despite all these threatening outcomes, Turkey has maintained relations with Russia no matter what. Despite differences of opinion on various subjects, Turkey and Russia should maintain this alliance. This friendship is essential for regional and global peace.
In my writings, I have explicitly expressed since the start of the Ukraine crisis that there was a policy of isolating Russia and that some western players wished to keep the Cold War alive. Of course Russia is not entirely innocent on the issue, but it is no secret that the West’s policy of isolating Russia from its friends and weakening it is a mistaken one. One part of the international press has signed up to that mistaken policy, which is also one of the reasons why the Syrian problem has failed to be resolved. Russia has not been given the guarantees it expects from the allies, deliberately so, particularly on the issues of Syria and Ukraine.
The fact is, however, that the scourge afflicting the world today is to a large extent the product of a policy of self-interest in which the weakening of one country strengthens another. However, growth and development must come together. Talk of world peace while adopting policies intended to bring one country down is downright insincerity. Turkey, a western ally and a member of NATO, should therefore always stand beside its friend and neighbor Russia as well and represent a role model against those who desire a new Cold War.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Arab News: