Muslim and Catholic Perspectives on Disability in the Contemporary Context of Turkey
Starting from the reality that we all live in multicultural pluralistic societies, and as such we cannot ignore each other but all must share our respective religious-cultural heritages and learn from one and another, this dissertation argues that although the theological dialogue among religions is to be promoted and developed constantly, we also have to give major space to other forms of dialogue, namely a dialogue based on bioethical issues and/or daily life-related problems that is part of our everyday religious experience. Therefore, in order to show this is possible, although with many difficulties to be faced along the way, the dissertation proposes disability as a common ground for Muslim-Christian dialogue and collaboration in the context of Turkey. The dissertation is structured into four chapters. Chapter I is focused on some characteristics of interreligious dialogue and, more particularly, on Muslim-Christian dialogue and disability. This chapter provides a broad descriptive introduction and establishes the framework within which these are considered: i.e., The Republic of Turkey, Islam and the presence of the Latin Catholic Church in Turkey. The chapter begins with a review of the foundations and history of the development of interreligious dialogue in the Catholic Church. Next, it proceeds with a presentation of Turkey and the major actors of Muslim-Christian dialogue in the country. Then, it concludes with a global focus on the situation of disability in Turkey. Chapters II and III are dedicated, respectively, to the Muslim and Catholic Church’s perspectives on disability, and so, share the same structure: Following general introductions to Islam and the Catholic Church, they analyze the Scriptures of their respective traditions, the Quran and the Bible, and their other major sources such as the Hadith and Islamic law in the former, and the Code of Canon Law, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the latter. By focusing on various topics such as marriage of persons with disabilities, abortion of disabled fetus, Christian initiation and access to the sacraments, degrees of disabilities as impediment for priestly ordination, these two chapters aim to find the reverberations of the scriptural narratives in the teachings of these two traditions. After examining the historical development of some theodicy approaches to the dilemma of human suffering, the problem of evil, the existence of disabilities and God’s love, and wisdom and justice, this chapter ends by highlighting some applications in their contemporary contexts. In this regard, Chapter II presents two examples from Turkey: the controversial Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen’s approach to people with disabilities as “garip” (piteous, pitiful) and Muslim-Turkish scholar Mustafa Naci Kula’s research on the relationship between attitudes toward persons with disabilities and religious attitudes, which has provided considerable insight on the perception of disability in Turkish society. Parallel to this, Chapter III presents a Catholic figure, Nancy Mairs, who, in her writings, by dealing with personal disabilities, offers a contemporary version of classical theodicy approaches found in Catholic teaching in thinkers such as Augustine, Aquinas, and Irenaeus. The final chapter, Chapter IV, by the method of comparison, highlights relevant commonalities and differences and proceeds by discussing some relevant issues related to Muslim-Christian dialogue. Then, by reflecting on how disability can be a common ground on which to build fertile dialogue and collaboration, it concludes with a proposal which privileges five among many other possible topics: (1) Sin and disability seen as punishment; (2) Consanguineous marriages (3rd and 4th degree); (3) Abortion as a method to prevent birth of potentially disabled child; (4) Abuse of disabled women and children; and, (5) Charity and praying together. The first topic is based on the conviction that disability is given by God as a punishment for sin; it is one of the major beliefs that is shared among Muslims and Christians. The second, third and fourth topics are related to some social problems in Turkish society, namely, consanguineous marriages, abortion as a prevention of potentially disabled children, and the abuse of women and children with disabilities. Finally, the fifth topic aims at constructing dialogue and collaboration between Muslims and Christians through charitable works in Turkey. These topics are points related to the four main forms of dialogue proposed by Dialogue and Proclamation (1991) of Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, which are considered in this dissertation in a three-fold version: (1) Theological dialogue; (2) Dialogue of life experience and action; and, (3) Dialogue based on religious life experience.