By Kayhan Gul
BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) - Chairman of the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD) Zafer Sırakaya said that the newly-established branch of the union in Bosnia-Herzegovina would be endeavoring to revive the culture of coexistence in the country.
Sirakaya talked to Anadolu Agency about the enthusiastic objectives of their Bosnia-Herzegovina branch, the Union of European Balkan Democrats (UEBD), and a panel to be held on Thursday about the future of Islam and Muslims in Europe.
Having launched its operations in 2004 and today operating in 16 countries with 148 branches, the UETD is one of the most influential non-governmental Turkish diaspora organizations in Europe, Sirakaya explained.
"Despite bearing the word 'Turkish' in its name, the UETD has worked for the good of the entire humanity," he said, adding that Turkey was bound by its historic mission to offer its contributions to the culture of coexistence in the Balkans, with which it has a long shared history.
Sirakaya stressed that the Balkans was a region where different nations lived together and these different societies had in the past built mosques, synagogues, and churches side by side.
"And this gave birth to cohesion in the Balkans."
Sirakaya pointed out that in the last hundred years, this cohesion had broken down because of extremist movements especially in the lands that were once under Ottoman rule.
"In Sarajevo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, we will strive to find a way to revive the culture of coexistence, which stems from our conception of civilization, and our loving tolerance in listening to 'each other’s songs'," Sirakaya said.
-'Future of Muslims'
Speaking about a panel on "The Future of Islam and Muslims in Europe on the Axis of Andalusia and Bosnia-Herzegovina" to be held Thursday in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, Sarikaya said that the aim of the conference was to express that Islam was one of Europe's fundamental dynamics.
"We can see that the far-right parties in Europe are beginning to gain notice, with the constituencies of extremist right-wing and racist parties growing. In an environment where the enemies of Islam are increasing in number, we are here to point out once again that Islam is one of the fundamental dynamics of Europe,” Sarikaya said.
The fact that there are a number of Western politicians who emphasize that Islam is one of the core values of Europe is a source of great happiness, he said.
"However, we are organizing this conference in order to remind certain groups who lack such historical consciousness of the great values that the Andalusian civilization contributed to the European society.
"Islam will continue to be one of the fundamental dynamics and fundamental values of Europe in the future."
The panel in Sarajevo is expected to be attended by a large number of senior Bosnian officials and diplomatic mission chiefs in the country, as well as Turkey's presidential spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin and Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosniak member of Bosnia-Herzegovina's three-member Presidential Council.