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BY CAN DÜNDAR

MILLIYET- After the recent terror plot was thwarted, US President George W. Bush stated that the US is fighting against `Islamic fascists.' Bush had earlier compared the clash of civilizations to the Crusades. The Islamic world responded to this by bringing up `evangelical fascists.' These kind of statements encourage radicals in both the Islamic world and the Western world and pose a threat to the future. Isn't there anything that wise religious people can do about this?

Yes, there is something, and they are doing it. A very important congress recently took place in the Netherlands: `Religious Education in a Pluralist World.' It was organized by the International Seminar for Religious Education and Values. Forty countries are represented in this organization, which gathers every two years to discuss new methods in religious education. Such discussions became very important these days. Professor Mualla Selcuk from Ankara University made the opening speech.

In her presentation `Developing an Interfaith Dimension in Religious Education: Theological Foundations and Educational Framework with Special Reference to Turkish Experience,' Selcuk talked about the Turkish experience. She began with the question of what Islam's view of the `other' is and whether it also accepts other religions and tries to find ways of making religious education contribute to the experience of peaceful co-existence. Selcuk stressed that there has been a very rapid change in the understanding of religion in Turkey: She pointed to new modes of religious education and said that there are three issues which need more attention:

1. Having a clear definition of the terminology

2. New ways of passing on the religious knowledge produced in universities

3. Approaches which see other religions from their own perspective rather than the Islamic perspective

An important conclusion was drawn: The attendees appreciated Turkey's important role in this area and decided to hold their next meeting in Turkey. Turkey still hasn`t been able to reflect its faith pluralism in its religious education in schools, but with its geographic location and multicultural roots, Turkey can make a great contribution to humanity in a world in which new forces are trying to foment conflict from the view of the Crusades.

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