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Different faiths, shared sites explored in Istanbul

An exhibition in Istanbul sheds light on religious sites and pilgrimages sacred to Christians, Muslims and Jews alike, a phenomenon that is not widely known but is quite common in the Mediterranean region.

Every year on April 23, tens of thousands of pilgrims flock by ferry to the island of Buyukada, the largest of Turkey's Princes’ Islands, in the Sea of Marmara. After arriving, they walk along a narrow path up a hill to a Greek-Orthodox monastery to celebrate the feast day of St. George. They say prayers, perform various rituals and ask for divine intervention, as worshippers do in any other Christian sanctuary. What is unusual and surprising in this case is that most of the pilgrims are Muslims.

Members of the Islamic faith believe that Aya Yorgi, as St. George is known in Turkish, makes no distinction among worshippers and will help them all. If their prayers are answered, they return the following year to distribute lumps of sugar and candies to their fellow devotees. With Jews making the pilgrimage as well, the Church of Saint George on Buyukada is the most prominent case in the Mediterranean region of a sacred site being shared by members of the three monotheistic religions.

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