I made a friend during my stay in Istanbul. He is Muslim, a kind, hardworking man who is devoted to his family. He wonders why I travel alone. He can’t believe that I don’t have ‘a man that’s responsible for me.’ He would always remind me to be careful when walking around town alone, to be watchful, that not everyone is kind.
When customer traffic is light at their restaurant, he would leave for a few hours of break and walk with me through the streets, pointing out things of interest, local hangouts, places to avoid. In one of our leisurely strolls through Istiklal Caddesi, we came to a stop at St. Anthony’s Church, a Catholic church right in the middle of the shopping district. I told him I stumbled into that church a few days ago, that I stopped and took pictures. He smiled and told me he goes there sometimes with his prayer beads, takes a seat, and passes the time away in a dark corner, meditating.
That surprised me, and I said the obvious, “But that’s a Catholic church.” He chuckles at that and looks at me as though I am clueless. “No one tells me to leave, they let me sit there and relax. It’s all the same to me.”
I had nothing else to say to that. We walk on until we come to our little street corner and sit down to have some tea. It takes me the entire glass of tea to let that sink in.
A religion of sameness. That would really be something.