A letter, penned by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen nearly 50 years ago, has revealed the Muslim cleric recognizes the 1915-1916 killings as genocide; a claim Armenia defends.
“…I can not continue without condemning the genocide perpetrated against Armenians in 1915. I commemorate the victims of Genocide with a deep respect," said Gülen in the letter written to Archbishop Shinork Kalusyan, the former Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul on May 6,1965.
“I condemn with indignation and abhorrence the massacre of children of your great Prophet Jesus Christ by some ignorant people who think they are Muslim."
Gülen was serving as a preacher in Kırklareli when he penned these lines to Kalusyan.
His expressions in the letter have indicated that Gülen sowed seeds of his project to promote inter-faith dialogue in the 1960s.
“All nations and people are actually brothers and sisters because the grandmother of all of us is Eve and the grandfather is Adam. Man is mortal. Living as brothers is a need," he said.
“All The monotheistic religions recommend people to be kind and forgiving. The principles of Judaism and Christianity are pretty similar. Prophet Abraham is the grandfather for all the great people that we call Prophets, who established monotheistic religions," he said.
“It is actually immodest that people are taking a hostile stance to each other by mentioning differences in religion and nationality," he explained.
"Your being in this position as a representative of Jesus who always orders people to be kind and tolerance is a great honor for me and my Muslim realm."
“Your being in this position of always having tolerance for people and having orders others to perform favors as being a representative of Jesus is an honor for me and my Muslim realm."
During World War I, the Ottoman rule deported hundreds of thousands of Armenians in Anatolia to present-day Syria in 1915-16. As a result, an unknown number of people were killed in civil strife or died from starvation.
Armenians living in the homeland and in the Diaspora call this event a "genocide", whereas Turkey denies the deaths constituted genocide, saying those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.
The 1915 events remain a highly sensitive issue in the history of Turkey and Armenia. In a historic move in 2014, President Erdoğan, who was serving as prime minister, extended Turkey's condolences to the grandchildren of Armenians who had lost their lives in 1915. Although his statement was widely welcomed by Europe and Armenians living in Turkey, Yerevan has remained unsatisfied.