July 2010
Billie Silvey
Bosphorus Bridge
Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge
Throughout history bridges have been important in bringing people
together.  Bridges across streams, rivers, valleys and roads give
access or passage over obstacles.

The first bridges were made by nature—a log fallen across a stream
or stones in the river.  The first bridges made by humans were
probably spans of cut wooden logs or planks and eventually stones,
using a simple support and crossbeam arrangement.

Designs of bridges vary depending on the function of the bridge, the
nature of the terrain where the bridge is constructed, the material used
to make it and the funds available to build it.

The first bridge spanning the Bosphorus Strait was commissioned by
the Persian emperor
Xerxes in 490 BC.  Constructed of boats lashed
together (a pontoon bridge), it allowed safe passage to a Persian army
of 700,000 on their way to fight the Greeks.

Currently, two suspension bridges span the Bosphorus, connecting the
European and Asian sides of Istanbul.  The
Bosphorus Bridge was
officially opened in 1973 during the celebration of the 50th anniversary
of the founding of the Republic.  Within the first 24 hours, 28,126
vehicles crossed it, indicating the demand for a route across the

The second, the
Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, also known as the
Second Bosphorus Bridge, was completed in 1988.  A third bridge,
near the northern end of the Bosphorus, is being planned to allow
traffic to by-pass the city

Bridges are also important to human relations.  We often feel a need
to cross barriers between us as individuals.  The bridges across the
Bosphorus not only join the two sides of the city of Istanbul, but the
continents of Europe and Asia, and the cultures of the Christian West
and the Muslim East.

For this reason, Istanbul was considered the perfect site for a Catholic
priest to address a
gathering of 4,000 Muslim youth on the birthday of
Muhammad, the prophet of Islam.  His talk on the prophets as a
blessing from God was met with an enthusiastic response.  After the
talk, the program continued with a young Turkish poet reading his own
compositions in honor of Muhammad and a folk singer, accompanied
by an electric guitar, sang hymns in praise of God in soft-rock style.

The young men and women were mainly dressed in jeans, t-shirts and
running shoes.  The only visible mark of their Islamic faith was the
headscarf worn by the young women.  They were studying computer
science, medicine and mechanical engineering or employed as clerks,
secretaries, travel agents, delivery truck drivers and construction

According to the resport of the Catholic priest, "They represented a
cross section of the modern urban youth of Istanbul, whose common
bond was their Islamic faith.  Their delight and enthusiasm in
welcoming a Christian speaker was undeniably sincere, as was their
appreciation for the contemporary styles of praising God and honoring
their prohet Muhammad in song and poetry."

He continued to ask, "Who is more representative of Muslims, these
young people for whom Islam is fundamentally a religious faith, a path
to approach God in worship and a project for doing God's will in daily
life, or those who want to kill and destroy in the name of God?"

This meeting in Istanbul formed a bridge between Christians and
Muslims, as do interfaith projects around the world that bring Muslims
and Christians together to work on human development, anti-poverty,
peace and justice  around the world.  
When the first bridge over the Bosphorus was opened, the first people
to cross were on foot.  That very human and personal picture of people
walking across the bridge is a symbol of the ways we can work to build
bridges in our lives today--between cultures, races, socio-economic
differences, political parties and backgrounds.

Jesus came to bridge the greatest gap possible, between God and us,
perfection and imperfection, goodness and sin, grace and
judgementalism.  Let us be more like our Lord and bridge the gaps in
our lives and society.