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Asia

2003-11-26

ASIA/TURKEY - DESPITE FEAR IN RECENT DAYS, AS RAMADAN COMES TO AN END FAMILIES OF DIFFERENT RELIGIONS GATHER TO SHARE MEALS AND DIALOGUE

Antioch (Fides Service) – In these days of Muslim festivities for the end of Ramadan in Antioch, known to be a city of peace and harmony among peoples and religions, fear has been set aside and the different religious communities are joining Muslims in many initiatives of dialogue and sharing.
It is clear in Antioch that fundamentalism is restricted to a small circle of militant Muslims and that the majority of Turkish citizens, whether Muslim, Jew or Christian, is peace loving and tolerant. Local sources told Fides about an impressive silent peace demonstration in Antioch which brought together trade unionists, NGOs, followers of different religions, thousands of students, women, old people, workers and children: a silent crowd mourned and marched to reject all forms of terrorism.
Traditionally at the end of the Ramandan month of fasting and prayer Muslims visit holy places and hold family festivals. Antioch is busier than usual. Many have come from other towns in Turkey to join family members for the week of feasting, similar to Christmas.
Putting anxiety aside they buy special food and gifts at the busy markets. Sweets and candy cannot be missing on the table at Seker Bayram or the “Sugar Feast”. For families this is an annual occasion and many members travel from distant regions to be united. Non Muslims also take part in many of the initiatives: “At times of fear and fragility such as these we gather together around the same Lord of Heaven and Earth”, a Catholic woman in Antioch told Fides. “Today Turkish men and women of different religions believe and hope in peace founded on prayer and an intimate relationship with God and on truth and justice. This is the true image of the people Turkey and they want it to be known at this time when much of humanity in the Middle East and elsewhere lives in darkness”.
Antioch on the River Oronte was the city in which the disciples of Jesus were called Christians for the first time. An important centre of propulsion of the faith in the early years of the Church it is considered to be the first See where Saint Peter served as Bishop before going to Rome. (PA) (Fides Service 26/11/2003 lines 33 words 408)

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