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    First Hatay Meeting of Civilizations comes to a close

    Hürriyet Haber
    30.09.2005 - 10:16 | Son Güncelleme:

    Today brings the end to a week long meeting which has demonstrated the diversity of religion within Turkey. The First Hatay Meeting of Civilizations, held this week in the religiously and ethnically diverse southern city of Hatay was attended by Turkey's Chief Rabbi Isak Haleva who joined a call to banish violence from all religions and to work toward peace in society. Speaking to the press Haleva said, "civilizations were spending $100 million every hour for tanks, rifles and bullets... If this is civilization, then I am not a part of it. Is this what our creator expects of us?"

    "If religions cannot protect civilizations from committing suicide, all steps taken until today would be of no use," said the chief Rabbi. Haleva was slightly wounded in the Istanbul bombings two years ago, which targeted the Neveh Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul two years ago.

    Speaking at the opening of the meeting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, "The [Koran] says that we were created as diverse peoples so that we could get acquainted with each other. According to this, our separation into different nations should not cause conflicts. On the contrary, it should enable acquaintance and dialogue among us."

    Erdogan also simultaneously criticized Islamic terrorism and the rush to view Muslims as terrorists.

    "I declare Islamic-phobia a crime against humanity in the same way we accept anti-Semitism as a crime against humanity," the prime minister was quoted as saying.

    US public relations chief Karen Hughes, who is currently on a Middle East tour to try to improve the image of the United States among Muslims, met with Haleva and other religious leaders at Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.

    The meeting brought together Turkey's Muslim, Greek Orthodox and Armenian communities, with a speech that stressed religious tolerance and respect for diversity.

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