A country of all faiths…
For centuries, Turkey has also been a crossroads of religions, not only of Islam and Christianity, but of many other now forgotten by history. Many religious devotees can find a site, a shrine, a monument, a tomb or a ruin connected with their faith or belief.
Any visitor to Turkey will be struck by the plethora and variety of religious buildings and ancient shrines. There are temples dedicated to ancient gods, churches of many denominations, synagogues and of course mosques. As civilizations succeeded each other over a period of 10,000 years, they each left their religious legacy and, after the monotheistic domination of Anatolia, Islam, Christianity and Judaism co-existed in harmony.
“Göbekli Tepe” is a hilltop sanctuary built on the highest point of an elongated mountain ridge about 15km northeast of the town of Şanlıurfa in southeast Turkey. The site, currently undergoing excavation, was erected by hunter-gatherers in the 10th millennium BC (ca 11,500 years ago), before the advent of sedentism. It is currently considered the oldest known shrine or temple complex in the world, and the planet's oldest known example of monumental architecture.
The history of the Jews in Anatolia started many centuries before the migration of Sephardic Jews. In Anatolia the oldest Jewish synagogue, dated third century A.D. founded in Sardis. Byzantine shops similar to those in the earlier Lydian market backed up against the wall of the synagogue. One wonders if the synagogue had been built on the site of a more ancient building or if the owners of the shops could have been distant descendents of the Jews in Obadiah.
When Jews expelled from Spain by the Edict of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain at the end of 15th century, one ruler extended an immediate welcome to the persecuted Jews of Spain, the Sephardim. He was the Sultan Bayazid II of the Ottoman Empire. Sephardic Jews have been living in this country for more than 500 years in peace as Jews of Islam.
In Anatolia the population easily adopted the new religion preached by St Paul, St Barnabus, St Silas and St Timothy. And it is in Antakya that the Disciples of Christ were called Christians for the first time. The Church of St. Peter is the spot where he first preached the Gospel in Antioch. The Church is at important religious center as being the place where one of the 12 saints of Jesus, St. Pierre tried to spread the Christianity after death of Jesus. In 1963, it is announced as a pilgrim place by Pope VI. Paul.
Turkey is the land where the first Christian state, Byzantium, was founded - a state that lasted for one thousand years. Anatolia was also the first home of Christianity. It is here that Christianity ceased to be considered a Jewish religion. Virgin Mary and Apostle John are believed to have died in Ephesus. Both sites have been places of Latin pilgrimage and devotion accepted by Papal authority. Perhaps the most significant factor for this approval was the Third Ecumenical Council held at Ephesus in the year 431 which established Virgin Mary in Christian doctrine, as the “Mother of God”.
This is the land of the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse and was the venue fort the first Seven Councils. The First Ecumenical Council of 325 and the Seventh Ecumenical Council of 787 held in Iznik (Nicaea). Christianity took root and thrived in Anatolia, where it found a historically intense religious and spiritual lifestyle.
The once vast Byzantine Empire ended its days in the then-small Black Sea city of Trabzon, a space less than a thousandth of the Empire’s original size. In the beautiful mountains which rise abruptly from the sea here is perhaps the greatest single Christian site in all of Anatolia, the Monastery of Sumela a ruin of epic proportions in a breathtaking setting, a site now reachable by car.
“Love is All”; The Poetry and Philosophy of Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi, the great philosopher and mystic of Turkish Islam.
His message of brotherhood is love and beyond since the 13th century.
For Mevlana, the one essential aim of life is to be reunited with God, either through death or through the love of everything that exists, since everything in the world is a reflection of God. His Philosophy is Tolerance and Humanism
Come! Whoever, whatever you may be, come!
Heathen, idolatrous or fire worshipper, come!
Even if you denied your oath a hundred times, come!
Our door is the door of hope, come as you are!