Pope Francis encouraged interfaith dialogue during his visit to Turkey on Friday, November 28. A predominantly Muslim country, Turkey’s perception of the papacy was darkened when Francis’ predecessor called Islam “evil and inhuman.”
Francis not only worked to amend old animosities, but to strengthen relations between peaceful Christians and Muslims to present a united front against ISIS. The radical group currently encroaches across Turkey’s Southern borders with Iraq and Syria.
“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,” the pope said in a televised speech from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s presidential palace.
“Fanaticism and fundamentalism, as well as irrational fears, which foster misunderstanding and discrimination, need to be countered by the solidarity of all believers,” he said.
The pope argued that military response will not be enough to stop ISIS and protect Christians and religious minorities currently in danger.
“In Syria and Iraq, particularly, terrorist violence shows no signs of abating,” the pope said. “In reaffirming that it is licit, while always respecting the international law, to stop an unjust aggressor, I wish to reiterate, moreover, that the problem cannot be resolved solely through a military response.”
Pope Francis called on the international community to address its “moral obligation” to assist Turkey in sheltering displaced refugees. An American-led coalition is currently fighting ISIS militants threatening the country’s borders.
President Erdogan hoped the pope’s visit would inspire new communications between Christians and Muslims.
“We sadly witness Muslims being associated with terror in the Western world, and in the Muslim world, we regret violent attitudes toward Christians,” Erdogan said.