Abdullah Demirbaş’s Letter to Pope Francis I

Most Holy Father, We, as a bouquet of flower, which is consist of different colours and smells of Prophet Braham’s spiritual garden, come to express our love and respect to you.

We bring you greetings on behalf of the communities (Assyrian, Yezidis, Christian, Muslim, Chaldean, Armenian, Kurdish, Turkish, Arabic) live in Mesopotamia, the land of three great religions that has been as a sign of brotherhood for centuries.  We would like to express our sincerest gratitude to His Holiness for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to us.

Being aware of the mission of Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID), yours truly will be honored to share several issues that me and my colleagues willing to develop for our homeland.

First of all, as you may well know, Kurdish community live under the control of four (Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria) countries has been exposed to various violence and sorrow throughout its history.

Like Jesus, The Lord faced crucifixion for the sake of preaching the exalted mission bestowed by God; Kurdish community also faced various sorrows throughout its history for claim its culture and language as a result of its identity bestowed by God.

I would like to emphasize that we are conscious that interreligious and intercultural dialogue a will bring communities together in this century. Diyarbakir, the place where I was born and grew up, is an ancient city ruled by various religions, faiths and communities and still is a unique city in the world that Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Assyrian, Yezidis, Chaldean communities live together. It looms large with its multi-religious, multicultural and multilingual structure. By being aware of this situation, when I was mayor, our municipal council approved the decision of “delivering multilingual and multicultural municipal services “and therefore me and our municipal council member was removed from office by inhuman attitude of the uniform mentality we have faced for years.  Thanks to God, in the next election again with the huge support of citizens that duty was given to Yours Truly and this conscious will and responsibility keep us on a right way. 

During my time as a mayor, we developed a project called “Street of Cultures” aiming to bring various faiths in Diyarbakir together. The project including restoration of a historic street that once was home to a synagogue, mosque and churches is underway in southeastern of Turkey and it will fall into place with your support and guidance. The city wall of Diyarbakir, were constructed during the Roman Rule has been a cradle various civilization during its 9000 years history faced religious and cultural dialogues and still show it to us solemnly. By being aware of its importance, in last year the premier NGOs, Municipalities have begun a campaign called “ Let’s Make 2013 the Year of Diyarbakir City Wall” and application file has been readied to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site List and we need the support of His Holiness on this issue.  We believe in that such an important and ancient value should be supranational value rather than forsaken by national policies.

During Yours Truly’s term as mayor, we formed a council named “Kirklar Meclisi” that brings together the different faiths, orders, ethnic and disadvantageous group in Sur District Municipality. The council including Assyrian, Chaldean, Armenian, Muslim, Christian representatives together with women, youth and opinion leaders representing different segments of the society.  By the form of Kirklar Council we try to make contribution to your Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue studies. We are pleased to share this model we envisage that it will be a bridge to peace for all faiths and cultures around the world.  We constructed a “Monument of Common Conscience” which is dedicated to all people and religious groups who were subjected to massacres in these lands. 

We believe in that now, the path to true peace is not pass through a group’s trying to adapt another culture and faiths to itself nor a group’s adapt itself to another faith and cultures. To us, the path to true peace passes through togetherness of differences that are the source of richness and something not to be afraid.  So that, we accept all differences as richness and we give importance to the dialogue among cultures and religions.

However, in recent years, we have seen that there have been systematic attacks on the Kurds. One of these attacks was the massacres by ISIL (DAESH). ISIL specifically targeted religious minority women and girls, trafficked them to other parts of the world and subjected them to a litany of atrocities. Yazidi women and girls were among those most affected by these massacres.  As you are aware, rape and impregnation by non-Yazidis is seen as a harsh hit to the Yazidi bloodline. The identity of women raped by ISIL was thus destroyed. In addition, women and young children were detained and sold in exchange for money, with their identities destroyed. In other words, Yazidi women were persecuted by disregarding their beliefs and identities.  This brutality, which is one of the greatest atrocities ever seen in the history of humanity, was stopped thanks to the upright stance of the peoples and beliefs who wanted peace and democracy in Iraq and Syria. Especially the resistance in Northeast Syria made a great contribution to stopping ISIL.  It will be a great glimmer of hope for us if His Holiness take a role in the protection of beliefs and identities, the development of dialogue channels and the culture of tolerance.

Yours Sincerely,

Mr. Abdullah DEMİRBAS

The former mayor of Sur District Municipality of Diyarbakir and Member of Kirklar Council

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