Pope Francis' visit to Turkey was highly appreciated by Muslims because of the care and interest he demonstrated for them, and for his acknowledgement that not all Muslims are terrorists, a local scholar has said. “The Turkish people deeply appreciated the Pope’s visit,” Zeynet Cebeci Suvari, a Ph.D. candidate at Bogazici University, told CNA. “The message is clear: 'I care about you and that is why I am here'. Even only this gesture means a lot in itself, without any words uttered.” Cebeci Suvari, a Muslim, is the first non-Christian to earn a licentiate in sacred theology from a pontifical university, having graduated from the Pontifical Gregorian University. She commented that “in general, Muslims do not know much about how Holy Father is perceived in the Catholic world …. the differences among the various confessions of Christianity do not mean anything to an ordinary Muslim.” In Turkey, Muslims are more familiar with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the head of Eastern Orthodoxy. The patriarchate is located in Istanbul, and the patriarch, Bartholomew I, is himself Turkish. “The more important a role the patriarchate can play in the Christian world, the more respected it will become by Muslims as well,” said Cebeci Suvari. “Although Turkey’s relationship with its Christian minorities is still problematic today, hopefully the respect shown to Bartholomew I by the Pope can set a good example for the Turkish leaders.” She then stressed that “leaders can be pioneers in spreading wisdom and kindness among their people, and this can only be achieved when leaders talk to each other.” In Turkey, Cebeci Suvari explained, “the rise of the nationalist societies was hurtful for cosmopolitanism and multiculturalism. All of a sudden, each nation was closed in itself and tried to find a scapegoat among the neighbors who have been living together for centuries.” Some of the appreciation for Pope Francis' visit is because it “tells the world that not all Muslims are barbaric terrorists. There is too much disinformation about culture and religion. Pope Francis' visit may have shattered some of misconceptions about religions.” During his trip, and again during his flight back from Turkey, Pope Francis had underscored that Muslims should speak out against violence and terrorism. “Every single Muslim that I know is disturbed by the Islamic State,” Cebeci Suvari said. She explained that the “slowness of reaction” is an outcome of the fact “Muslims do not perceive Islamic State as Muslim. What Islamic State is doing in the name of Islam has no resemblance to the Islam these ordinary Muslims know.” “They do not relate to it, and so they do not even think they should talk against it.” “They are baffled how anyone cannot see that this is not the real Islam,” Cebeci Suvari said.
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