Behind religion and nationalism there is always one and only factor which divides people: The financial interests of the Great Powers through the centuries.
Going back to the 16th and the 17th centuries, it has been Venice to encourage religious differences which served her commercial influence and expansion, and agitated the christian inhabitants of the Greek peninsula to revolt against the Ottoman sovereign.
The Ottoman - Venetian Wars lasted for centuries and the local populations learned to fight on the side of Venice in the name of Christianity.
On the other hand, the Ottomans used the Patriarchate, which was totally under their control, to convince the Cretans that they would be more free as Orthodox under their tolerant dominion than under the Venetian Catholic regime.
In the 18th century it was easier for Orthodox Russia to put under her religious "protection" the Balkan ethnicities, and use them for her own expansion in the Ottoman territories, mainly the Aegean Sea.
During the Greek Revolution, encouraged by Russia, France and England (which later on formed political parties acting under their influence), the factor "religion" has been decisive as the Albanians living in the greek peninsula took parts according to religion: The christians joined the Greeks and the Muslims joined the Turks.
Later on, the ethnic cleansing on both sides has been based on the same criteria, the first victims of this paranoid policy being the muslim Cretans, who felt neither Greek, nor Turkish but simply Cretan and their discendants who now live in Turkiye, Syria and Libya feel always likewise.
The exchange of populations between the two countries which resulted from the dissolvement of the Ottoman Empire, Greece and Turkiye, even in the 20th century was based on the same criteria, and we faced the phaenomenon of Turkish speaking christian refugees (from Kappadocea, Thrace etc) and Greek speaking muslims who still live in Pontus.
Though, in greek territories where "Turks" and Greeks" lived together for centuries and enjoyed a common high standard of living, as in Rodos, where there are absolutely no religious discriminations, it has been the Italians who oppressed the muslim minority during the period of the Italian occupation of the Dodecanese islands.
Nowdays things have changed, and apart from the fanatics from both sides who celebrate the "seige" of Polis - Eis tin Polin - Instanbul with parades or with mourns (depends on the side) religion and past are of no importance, but there is always the factor "weapons industries" which is encouraging claims of rocks and fishery territories of the Aegean Sea, so that they can get profit out of the ammunition sales. The former USA governments were specialists of the kind (Dick Chaney for example?)
Still, Greeks do not oppose the acceptance of Turkiye in the European Union, but the French, the Spanish and - above all - the Italians do, religious excuses included.
A taxi driver in Rome was telling me that he would join any religious war against the admition of Turkiye, and the same I happend to hear (widely) in Venice.
In conclusion, it is not religion that devides people, and in our case Greeks and Turks, but what the big financial interests invent and impose to keep people apart.
Family archives, double origins (Italian and Greek) and personal intensive (and international) experience.
· 1 decade ago