Sam's Life

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Another day in Istanbul

Business owner Cemil presents Sam with a Muslim prayer rug for Dr. Safi Kaskas.

A prayer rug for Safi

I changed hotels today. I’m now at a hotel overlooking the Blue Mosque. What a sight it is!

This afternoon I walked for several hours–ending up at the Hagia Sofia Mosque. I had a long conversation with a shop owner next to the mosque. We spoke for over an hour about the work Dr. Kaskas and I are doing in Christian-Muslim-Jewish reconciliation. The shop owner, Cemil gave me a beautiful Muslim prayer rug to give to Dr. Kaskas as a way, he said, of “saying thanks to Dr. Kaskas for bringing Sam to the Middle East.” That meant a lot to me.

As I was walking back to my hotel I was asked by Ali, a university math student,  if I wanted a free shoeshine. Well, to be honest, I really needed the shoeshine, but there was a catch–I would need to visit Ali’s friend’s carpet shop. I thought for a minute, thinking I could afford a few minutes to visit another carpet shop for that free shoeshine. I got the shoeshine and then headed off with Ali to his friend’s shop across the square. There I was introduced to the owner Vahap. I had a Turkish apple-tea and saw several Kurdish hand-made rugs–all incredibly beautiful. But Vehap was more interested in talking to me about the work Dr. Kaskas and I are doing in promoting religious reconciliation. He shut down his shop, and we spoke for more than two hours!

I’m finding that Muslims throughout the Middle East just want to be understood. They are grateful when they can find someone, especially an American, who is genuinely interested in conversing with them. They want the West to understand that they are not our enemies–that only a fringe of radicals are out there giving Islam a bad name. And I shared with Ali and Vahap that it’s the same with Christians–we have our radical elements who also give God a bad rap.

Discussion about French tragedy

Vahap spoke about the Muslim French citizen Mohamed Merah who had recently shot or killed several French military personnel and then killed several Jews at a synagogue in Toulouse, France. According to the gunman, he did it in revenge for Israel having killed Palestinians. I mentioned America had its own “Christian radical” Timothy McVeigh who blew up the Marah Federal Building in Oklahoma City killing 168 men, women and children because he sympathized with the Branch Davidians who were killed a year earlier by the FBI. I mentioned that Mahatma Gandhi had said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” We were happy when we heard from another friend that French Christians, Jews and Muslims will be marching together in solidarity in Paris this weekend.

My heart is gladdened by getting acquainted with Turkish and Kurdish Muslims and listening to their concerns, hopes and aspirations. Together, we Christians, Jews and Muslims can make the future so much better for our children and grandchildren. However, peace doesn’t just happen. We must strive for it!

History of Istanbul

I’ve also been studying the phenomenal history of Istanbul. Istanbul (as you are most likely aware, during the past centuries has been called Byzantium and Constantinople. It is Turkey’s largest city and home to more than 9 million people. It is the nation’s cultural, economic, and financial center.

Located in the northwest of Turkey, it lies on the Bosphorus Strait and encompasses a natural harbor known as the Golden Horn. Istanbul is the only city in the world situated on two continents.

During its long history, Istanbul has served as the capital of the Roman Empire (330–395), the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922). When the new Republic of Turkey was proclaimed in 1923, the nation’s capital became Ankara.

I found out today that Istanbul’s historic areas were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985 and that Istanbul is currently bidding to host the 2020 Summer Olympics.


March 22, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,


  1. Sam, what a fascinating time you’ve been having – and how wonderful to find persons who want to talk about the reconciliation of the religions.
    I’ll be writing you about a similar situation (reconciliation of religions) that I had on our trip to Morocco.
    Sorry you had such a difficult time with your visa in Istanbul. What a friend is Safi to help you through your difficulties.
    Light, Life and Love. Mardy

    Comment by Mardy Burgess | March 31, 2012 | Reply

    • What could have been a difficult time turned out to be an incredible time!

      Comment by Sam Shropshire | April 29, 2012 | Reply

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