1005) Ernst Reuter Initiative: Campaign against fanaticism

The Ernst Reuter Initiative for Intercultural Dialogue and Understanding last week gave a presentation to a Turkish audience in Istanbul. Even though I don't have detailed information about it, I congratulate the founders on the initiative.
Personally I have spent almost 25 years on this matter. When I published a map of faith sites in Anatolia in 1993, it was the first local attempt to create a bridge of understanding between religions. . . Then my project was accepted by state broadcaster the Turkish Radio and Television Corporations (TRT) and we put together an 18-episode documentary "Faith Sites in Anatolia" (Anadolu'da inanc Merkezleri), which aired in 1999. I was the scriptwriter and program advisor.
I have no intention of presenting my CV here, but just want to mention that I'm highly interested in the topic.

In almost every aspect of our lives we encounter fanaticism. Religious and ethnic fanaticism are the most destructive and dangerous forms. Fighting them requires a good education. With educated people, even strong traditions can be changed. Bigotry should be the main target to fight against in order to clear people's minds.

Unfortunately religion and ethnicity are the most sensitive and exploited matters in our lives.

What can be done to wipe out bigotry?

First of all we should create associations in which all sides should be present as partners. Then we should conduct polls and evaluate the results of the polls to discover the vulnerabilities of bigotry in religion and ethnicity.

For example, when we shot the documentary "Faith Sites in Anatolia" we visited ruins of churches and synagogues almost everywhere in Anatolia and took their pictures. The inhabitants of the places, who are Muslims, were never bothered that we were digging into non-Muslim history. But when we visited some functioning Christian churches in Istanbul we felt a sort of antagonism around us. People's behavior towards non-Muslim elements varies from place to place and time to time.
After the evaluation period, the systematic project should be drawn up and implemented. There are of course many details in every step. First of all, the biggest problem is to locate capable personnel.
Let's take a look at our training of teachers and our textbooks. Almost the whole system of social education depends on hate. If there had been any possibility, we might be saying in mathematics, "I hate the number eight." Even though the Prophet Muhammed declared, "People who carry hate never receive God's blessings," we don't observe this.

How can we change this useless system?

All I can say is that we need these kinds of initiatives and campaigns to be -- sorry for my language -- tamed. I hope that they will be successful.

Recep Guvelioglu
11 September 2006


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