Vol 20 No 3 2013

Muslim-Christian Dialogue: Nostra Aetate and Fethullah Gülen’s Philosophy of Dialogue

Salih Yucel


Through the turbulent era leading up to the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the climax of European colonization, one of the most influential Muslim thinkers of the 20th century, Said Nursi, called for dialogue and cooperation between Christians and Muslims 54 years before the Nostra Aetate. Despite the authoritarian tendencies of the time, Nursi knew that humanity would make a fresh call for reconciliation, understanding and cooperation, and that this would work through dialogue. Mainly due to the prevailing political and cultural circumstances in his time and as well as living a life of house-arrest in exile, Nursi's opportunities to apply his theory were greatly restricted. His eyes looked towards the future generations who would fulfil this call. Fethullah Gülen , one of Nursi's most influential followers and a leader of a global spiritual and educational movement, adopted and applied Nursi's philosophy, despite severe criticism from both extremes of the religious spectrum. Contrary to Samuel Huntington's postulation of a clash of civilizations, Gülen advocated a cooperation of civilizations, which attracted political and academic interest. He encouraged people both to engage in dialogue, and to establish centres of dialogue in order to meet this global imperative. This paper will examine Nostra Aetate and Gülen's views regarding an advanced stage of institutionalizing dialogue and the fostering of cultural acceptance.