06/07/2007, 00.00
VATICAN – TURKEY
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Gregoriana, Ondokuz Mayis's Faculty of Theology together to serve man

by Mavi Zambak
A Four-day discussion to formulate guidelines for cooperation between the ‘Pontificia università Gregoriana’ and Samsun’s ‘Ondokuz Mayis University’ ended today. An agreement to that effect was signed on Monday.

Rome (AsiaNews) – The rector of the Pontificia università Gregoriana, Gianfranco Ghirlanda S.I., and the dean of the (Islamic) Faculty of Theology, Osman Zümrüt, who represented the rector of Ondokuz Mayis University in Samsun, held a very cordial meeting. Their get-together informed the guidelines for academic co-operation between the two institutions; their goal is to seek mutual knowledge based on scientific methods and warmth and mutual esteem based on living near one another.

Why the agreement? To serve man. Not one based on a self-centred form of humanism but one that is informed by a comparative approach that puts one’s religious values at the service of man in order to find answers to the many difficult questions concerning relations between societies and those man has about his own humanity.

It is not jus a formal accord but rather one that seeks to enhance mutual knowledge between culturally and religiously different societies for the purpose of peaceful coexistence.

The Università Gregoriana is already involved in similar initiatives in other Turkish cities like Ankara and Istanbul, but this is the first time that it has struck this kind of agreement with another educational institution in a non- cosmopolitan Muslim city.

Although Samsun once had 13 consulates in Ottoman times and is today an important link in the international energy sector, the city of almost half a million people, essentially Muslim, is now home to but a few dozens foreigners and Christians. For this reason this type of co-operation is special.

It must be said to its credit that the Faculty of Theology of Ondokuz Mayis University supports inter-faith dialogue in a cultural context where such dialogue is often described as a Western or Christian ploy to sway people. Despite hostility to inter-faith dialogue and open attempts by many local Muslims to widen the gap between Turkish and Western societies, Dean Zümrüt has been a strong and warn supporter of a movement against attitudes of this kind. In the course of this conference, he said that in his experience with the Christian world the Catholic Church is best placed and most disciplined for this type of agreement.

As for the Università Gregoriana it must said that it has the merit of shouldering the Church’s burdens in Samsun, whose presence has been made possible only after a number of legal victories in the courts. And there is Father Ghirlanda to thank.

The project that he supports has raised hopes in Mgr Luigi Padovese, bishop of the Vicariate of Anatolia, that the current atmosphere of confrontation may give way to something better, this despite the most recent sad episodes of intolerance that saw a French parish priest knifed and the Italian-Turkish couple sent to replace him expelled by the authorities, proof if any that the Catholic side has opted for dialogue and reconciliation, not resentment and vengeance.

The day after the agreement was signed participants to the discussions took part in a meeting at the Turkish Embassy to the Holy See and the Pontifical Council for Inter-Faith Dialogue on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the birth of philosopher and mystic Mawlānā Jalāl-ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī. All forms of dialogue that do not deny painful facts show an iron desire to renounce isolation or violence and this despite these facts.

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