09 October 2006

1099) Armenian Patriarch Got Reaction When He Fasted For Ramadan

When Armenian Patriarch Fasted for Ramadan he was reacted:" Would have been better if you'd become Muslim" Headline excerpt

Bulent Gunal
VATAN Oct.8, 2006

Mesrob II, Patriarch of Turkish Armenians, revealed that this year he would fast for 30 days Ramadan together with Muslims. But there were reactions from Armenian community such as: "Does our Patriarch endorse mixed marriages of Muslims with Christians", "How much we suffered to remain Christian in Anatolia", and "He should have become Muslim" . .

Naturally in an atmosphere when Pope was criticizing Muslim Religion and Prophet Mohammed, thus creating reactions, which intercepted dialogue between religions, it was interesting that Mesrob II started to fast like Muslims.

We were guests of the Patriarch at the table of fast breaking, at Kumkapi Armenian Patriarchate. The table was short of nothing… olives, dates, pastrami, feta cheese, halva, macaroni, salad, and pomegranate juice… But the best attraction on table was the "sarmas" and "dolmas" (stuffed peppers and grape leaf wrapped hamburger meat with rice and onions made by Patriarch's own mother Mari Mutafyan. Patriarch was telling the secret of the dolmas:
" There is hardly any meat, but onions are plenty, totally Armenian kitchen style". And the moment came when the voice of the muezzin call was heard, and we said "may God be pleased" and started to break our fasting. After this, our Ramadan chat started.

Media makes me worry!
Q: Why are you fasting ?
R: During these days I receive invitations for "iftar" (fast-breaking dinner) tables. I feel like a deceiver at those tables, if I don't fast. Since there is fasting also in our religion, I said, then, let me keep it even when it is not compulsory. But I am worried that this attracted the press media, all of the sudden. Fasting is done for God. The moment it is done a public show, it destroys its meaning. I remember very well when I was a child, my grandma had warned us not to eat on streets, She used to say, that this would be disrespect and a shame when our neighbors are fasting". At the end, we are all travelers of the same ship, we share the space and believe in God"

In Ramadan Armenians also fast for 8 days
Q: How did your community interpret your fasting in Ramadan ?

R: According to Armenian Church, throughout the year, almost every Wednesday being the day when Christ was crucified, are fasting or dieting days. Those who want, do not eat daytime until sunset. Others may keep the religious diet, keep away from all animal food products, and consume only vegetables. Before Easter, throughout 7 weeks, we observe the same rules. In other words, we too have the rule of fasting. During Ramadan a minimum of 8 days fasting is due to every Armenian. This is a rule of the church. In our Bible, there is no definite period of time for fasting. You may fast whenever you wish. And I, with my free will, fast whenever I want. Obviously there may be gossipers between Armenians and few were…
A citizen asked, "Does our Patriarch desires to support mixed marriages between Christians and Muslims?" What that has to do with fasting ! A woman, whom I never heard of any relationship with our community, apparently talked to a newspaper (*) reputed with its opposition to the Patrircahate, and implied that the Armenian community was getting away from traditions and habits, by saying "How much we suffered in Anatolia, to remain Christian?".

Reactions come from bigoted persons
Another one was apparently sorrowed because we "called Muslim believer brothers"! Can you observe the shallowness and bigotry? I acknowledge every person related to this country by citizenship, who lives in this country as a brother. If he believes in God, of course he is a religious person, a believer. What is wrong with those words? Of course there may be some reactions between Muslims as well. In fasting, what is important is the consent of God. This year I have displayed my wishes. Few days ago there have been so many unpleasant events in the last days, starting with cartoon crisis up to the frustrating words of his holiness the Pope, that I even foresee a living dialogue of virtual sharing of sentiments, by prayers and fasting. ! Few days ago, some columnist spoke nonsense when he said that "I wish he had become Muslim!" I am Christian and I am very happy. I maintain a deep respect to the religion of my Muslim brothers. I expect the same reciprocal respect to my religion as well.

(*) Should be AGOS Weekly Paper, whom is known to be the voice of ANCA in Istanbul.

Note: In appreciation of this warm and sincere interview, I wanted to translate it and relay to those overseas, who wrongly think that Turks and Armenians(in Turkey) are separate and antagonist. We are like the finger and nail… Mesrob II is much liked with his seriousness and sincerity, and efforts to make those in Diaspora understand and believe in this bi-lateral brotherhood! The danger comes up front, when intelligence has nothing to say and ducks behind bigotry… Think well, as regards who are the peace or troublemakers…

Just in case you got the wrong impression, I think and feel like Mesrob II. He can rely at least on me. S. S. Aya

Turkish Version
Patrik Hazretleriyle Ramazan Sohbeti


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