PRAYER ALERT: Two historic and potentially controversial events occurred with the pope in Turkey this past weekend. On Saturday Pope Francis stood in Istanbul’s Sultan Ahmet mosque and prayed in silence with Grand Mufti Rahmi Yaran. He also told the mufti twice that Christians and Muslims should “adore” God and not just glorify and praise Him. This prayer of the pope in Turkey was so welcomed that it was replayed on Turkish TV numerous times.
The Turkish people, who are 97% Muslim, remembered the last visit of a pope in Turkey in 2006. It was soon after Pope Benedict XVI cited a fifteenth century Byzantine emperor on Islam in a university lecture. He quoted Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos as saying, “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
Pope Benedict’s comments were met with a storm of protest throughout the Muslim world. Two churches in the West Bank were firebombed. Pope Benedict later said that he quoted the emperor not in approval, but to compare differing views of Islam. He followed up with many public gestures of respect toward Muslims. In one incident, the pope in Turkey visited Istanbul’s famous Blue Mosque. There he actually turned toward Mecca in a gesture of prayer with then-Mufti Mustafa Cagrici.
Many evangelicals and Jews protested, affirming that Emperor Manuel’s remarks were true. There is a fine line between respect for a people and reproval for a false religion that they profess. In the same way we must love the sinner and hate the sin.
Pope Francis took the opportunity to do so. On the same landmark day that the pope in Turkey prayed with Istanbul’s mufti, ISIS for the first time launched an attack from Turkey. It targeted the border town of Kobani, Syria. The next day, in a second historic event, the pope and the top leader of the Orthodox Church issued a strong joint response to ISIS…
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