By Hakan Copur and Servet Gunerigok
WASHINGTON (AA) – Turkey's US envoy hosted an iftar or fast-breaking dinner for religious leaders of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish American communities Tuesday.
"I would like to welcome you all to the residence of the Turkish ambassador on this lovely Ramadan evening to share our iftar," said Ambassador Hasan Murat Mercan in his speech to the guests.
Mercan took office in early March and said he travelled to Istanbul and met the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomeos, the Chief Rabbi of Turkey Isak Haleva and the head of the Turkish Jewish Community Ishak Ibrahimzadeh before his arrival on US soil.
"During these visits, I had the chance to pass through the old city, with the domes of our mosques and the many churches and synagogues. And I should say there is always fresh hope and joy of life in the breeze of the Bosphorus. That is how we should be inspired and encouraged to stand together, hand in hand against any bigotry and hatred around the world, be it Islamophobia, anti-Christianity, anti-Semitism or any other hatred targeting people’s freedom of conscience," he said.
The invitees included Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Rabbi Marc Schneier, the president of the Foundation For Ethnic Understanding (FFEU), and Professor Bilal Kuspinar, the president of the Diyanet Center of America.
Ambassador Elin Suleymanov of Azerbaijan was the special guest at the event. Many imams, rabbis, bishops, reverends and scholars were also present.
They included Reverend Johnnie Moore, Dr. David Renwick of the National Presbyterian Church, Mark Hetfield, president of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), Executive Vice President of American Friends of Lubavitch Rabbi Levi Shemtov, the president of the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States Rabbi Mendy Chitrik, Rabbi Sid Schwarz of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership and Rabbi Gad Bouskila of the Moroccan Community in New York as well as Imam Tarif Shraim of the University of Maryland, Imam Yahya Hendi of Georgetown University and Imam Talib Shareef of Masjid Muhammad.
The guests also enjoyed a recital of the “kanun,” a traditional string instrument of Ottoman music with deep historical roots.
"Let me close by wishing all the people peace, harmony and a secure environment to enjoy life with their families and friends. Together, like we do this evening," Mercan concluded.