Baptist church leaders from 120 countries gather in İzmir for congress
İZMİR - Doğan News Agency
DHA PhotoThe heads of Baptist churches from 120 countries gathered in the Aegean province of İzmir for a congress on “religious tourism” July 8.
Around 600 national and international guests attended the first session of “Religious Tourism Meeting of Civilizations” in Turkey, where the main topic of discussion centered on the importance of religious tourism.
The opening speech was delivered by Ertan Çevik, the Turkish representative of world’s Baptist churches and the head of the Turkey’s Protestant Baptist Church.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) İzmir lawmakers Aytun Çıray and Mehmet Ali Susam, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) İzmir lawmaker Rıfat Sait and İzmir Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu were among the participants.
Kocaoğlu said he thought it was not a coincidence that İzmir, the city of indulgence, hosted the event.
“There are no battles between civilizations in our history. There are common cultures and associations created by different beliefs. İzmir, where people from different cultures and religions have been living together for centuries, is historical proof of this,” Kocaoğlu said.
“The meeting held in İzmir was not a success for religious tourism, but for the secular Turkish Republic,” CHP deputy Çıray said, stressing that secularism was a must for modern day democracies.
“These kinds of meetings help us get to know one another. I admire world-known Baptists, such as Martin Luther King. A part of his dream has come true. I hope we can make his dream come true and live in a world of peace,” Çıray added.
AKP deputy Sait also highlighted the importance of the meeting, saying such events would contribute to business, tourism and economic relations between different countries.
“Seeing a city where [people from] different religious backgrounds live in peace makes us happy,” World Baptist Churches Association head John Upton said.