Posted: 29 Nov 2014 11:38 PM PST
The visit by Pope Francis to Turkey gives new meaning to religious tolerance and understanding between Christendom and Islam and heralds a new chapter in relations between the two great civilizations.
In a radical departure from the conventional papal posture, Pope Francis prefers to relate rather than pontificate and that has made all the difference.
To begin with, he goes to Turkey not to preach but to reach out, very much in the tradition of Christ, with humility and peace to the Muslim world as signified by Turkey, having already made his rounds to Jordan and Palestine.
Even more significantly, he has led by example in being the first pontiff to eschew the stereotypical association of Islam with extremism and violence, no doubt one of the glaring features of Islamophobia particularly in the West that is spreading at an even faster pace than the tentacles of the reviled Isis and the so-called Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq.
This genuine desire for understanding must therefore be received warmly and reciprocated with an equally genuine desire for the same from leaders of the Muslim world.
In this regard, President Erdo?an has done just that in publicly praising the pope for his "efforts to spread world peace, tolerance, peace and co-existence." More than just words, this is a gesture that will go a long way towards blazing the trail for a new chapter in Muslim-Christian relations in general and in mending the strained relationships of the past.
Once we get past the theological polemics which more often than not puts a strain on inter-religious relations, the matters that bind these two great faiths should be reason enough for cultivating greater tolerance and mutual respect.
There is no doubt that issues that bind all faiths and communities such as equity and justice, peace, the dignity of man, the need to alleviate the plight of the poor and the marginalized must continue to dominate the discourse.
While detractors will be quick to point out that one swallow does not make a summer, it is hoped that, emulating the positive steps being made by the Pope and President Erdo?an, world leaders of all major faiths will focus their energies on resolving these issues with a fervour and commitment driven by common ground that we share rather than the differences that are exaggerated.
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