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It was not your ordinary dinner. Whirling dervishes twirled while waiters offered candied dates as appetizers.

And there, sitting together were Turkey’s Chief Jewish Rabbi İsak Haleva, Greek Orthodox Church Patriarch Bartholomeos and Istanbul’s Muslim Mufti Mustafa Çağrıcı.

The event was Tuesday night’s iftar dinner hosted by Istanbul’s Galata Mevlevihanesi Museum. At sunset daily during the month of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate a day of total fasting — no food, no water, not even chewing gum or breath mints are allowed during the day — with a big meal.

Herve Magro, French consul-general to Istanbul, told the group that “Whichever religion we believe, it is all of our duty to make the world a better, more peaceful place.”

Patriarch Bartholomeos said that fasting fulfills its true meaning when supported with other virtues such as following a decent path, being fair and just, avoiding from misconduct and envy, helping the needy, protecting the weak, and sharing happiness and love.

Rabbi Haleva said that all three religions conveyed the same message which was “we all were brought to this world by the same parents.” He also said that Ramadan was the month of mercy, during which we were supposed to treat each other more mercuifully, otherwise we would not have the right to ask for God’s mercy.

He went on to say: “This is the most important message this month gives to us. A great majority of the global economy is spent on armament. Is it God’s wish that brother kills brother? Enough is enough; we must stop fighting now and start loving and caring for each other. Turkey could shine a light on the world by succeeding in this,” he said.

The site of the event, historic Galata Mevlevihanesi Museum has gone through intense restoration work over the last year and — and was toured by the three religious leaders before dinner. The museum is at the site of the original Galata dervish lodge, or “tekke,” built in 1491.

Dervishes are Sufi Muslim ascetics known for their extreme poverty and austerity, similar to friar monks in Christianity or Buddhist sadhus. Dervishes are known for their whirling dance that is a Sufi ceremony performed to try to reach religious ecstasy. Though not intended as entertainment, Dervish performances have been a tourist attraction in Turkey for more than a century.

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