Rumi Forum's blog on Hizmet, Fethullah Gulen, peacebuilding, education and interfaith efforts.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

ARTICLE: An untold African story 2

This is the follow up article to Emre Celik's first piece on Africa and the Hizmet Movement. Link to original is below.

An untold African story 2
Following on my recent piece on travels in Africa.

During my visit in Tanzania, I met with the former President Ali Hassan Mwinyi. He commended the
Hizmet schools highly for their successes and contributions to Dar Es Salaam and the wider region. He was a genuine advocate of the schools, and he dedicated his time to sharing the virtues of the schools to his fellow countrymen. And as such he took on the role of Honorary President of the Ishik Medical and Education Foundation.

A short hop across the Dar Es Salaam Bay to Zanzibar and we are
greeted by one of the teachers from the Hizmet’s Feza School. Zanzibar can easily be described as an island oasis - the climate and the people - both warm and welcoming. The Hizmet schools set up on the island do not only play an educational role.

Like all
Hizmet schools around the world, they partake in numerous community activities, and concern themselves with any social and civic issues that can be alleviated through their efforts. In this case, doctors from one of the Hizmet medical associations from the region of Izmir were visiting the island. It was a group of 8 doctors - 7 male and 1 female with various specializations including general practice. The purpose of this visit was to provide medical assistance to the students and their families, and to their relatives. This was done numerous times over the previous five years. With each visit the doctors would spend two weeks providing these services on the school campus.

For Turks engaged in Hizmet, the globalization phenomena might be said to have reached them as a result of
Gulen’s encouragement to travel abroad and provide service to others. Through Gulen’s encouragement a new generation of teachers, often new graduates themselves, took up the challenge of “education abroad.” This term usually refers to students studying overseas, but in the Hizmet’s context, it meant teachers going abroad. This could easily be seen in the handful of such people working in Zanzibar. Similarly, while in Africa, I also found out about new school projects on the Comoros Islands. To me this was even more remote than Zanzibar, since the Comoros Islands were halfway between Madagascar and Zanzibar - and unbeknown to me.

In Kenya, there is the Light Academy and its numerous campuses in Nairobi
and Mombassa. I met with the person heading the dialogue activities.
He introduced me to a Catholic nun who was impressed with Gulen’s message since coming across it through Fr. Tom Michel when she was in the Philippines. In Somalia, I met by chance the person heading Kimse Yokmu, a Hizmet international aid organization. He told of two attempts on his life by the Al Shabab during Kimse Yokmu’s relief work. He survived both without a scratch. But this reflects the danger that some in Hizmet find themselves, and despite such risks they continue their service.

In Mombasa I came across a young family of Catholic Missionaries from
Chicago. They were passionate and busy with their work in the local prisons. They were so pleased with the Light Academy and the school’s willingness to accommodate them that they had enrolled their two young daughters in the school. This was all the more interesting as there was a local Catholic school that they could have considered.

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia I met with numerous ministers from the Ethiopian government, all pleased
with the local Hizmet schools. Some ministers were also sending their children to these schools. One parent from the schools was also involved in the African Union. This one parent played an important part in organizing a dialogue conference earlier in 2012, based on Fethullah Gulen’s ideas on civilizational dialogue. During a conversation with a minister, he highlighted these important concepts that he listened to at this conference that was held at the grand African Union building. This building was fantastic in architectural design as well as magnificent in size. It was donated to the Union by the Chinese government and estimated to cost nearly 200 million US dollars. I have attended about half a dozen of such dialogue conferences usually numbering 150-300 participants. This conference had an amazing number of attendees—2,500. Amongst them were heads of state and leaders from all walks of life.  I further discussed this conference when I was meeting with one of the persons in charge of curriculum design in the Education Ministry. He said they were now considering introducing some type of dialogue subject that dealt with intercultural understanding for all K-12 and possibly in universities—even making such a course mandatory.

During the course of my African travels, I came across many amazing
stories of those involved in Hizmet and those who are respectful of the services provided. And for someone like me who has been involved for more than 20 years now, I too was not only amazed, but many times moved to see such passion, selflessness, gratitude, perseverance, hopefulness, altruism, and fraternity between many types of people from all walks of life—whether they were poor and uneducated or highly schooled and in the higher echelons of society. All were thankful for their link to Hizmet; no matter how small or how great it was, people truly felt honored to be in the company of those who served.

And to me this was most humbling.
See also:

Emre Çelik is an Australian based in Washington DC and President of the Rumi Forum.

VIDEO - Dr. Svante E. Cornell-Turkey's Challenges and Opportunities in the Caucasus

The Caucasus is Turkey's corridor to the Turkic states of Central Asia, and a corridor for growing trade in both energy and goods, given substantial new transport infrastructure. But as the 2008 Russian-Georgian war and the escalating tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan show, it is also a region fraught with challenges that directly affect Turkey. Cornell will discuss Turkey's interests and priorities in the region; how Turkey balances the calls for normalization of relations with Armenia and its strong ties to Azerbaijan; and what the transition of power in Georgia means for Turkey.

Dr. Svante E. Cornell is Director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Research and Policy Center affiliated with Johns Hopkins University-SAIS, Washington DC, and the Stockholm-based Institute for Security and Development Policy. ( He is the Editor of the Joint Center's biweekly journals, the Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst ( andTurkey Analyst ( He was educated at the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, and received his Ph.D. in Peace and Conflict Studies from Uppsala University. Cornell teaches the Caucasus and the Turkic world at SAIS, where he is an Associate Research Professor. He served as Course Chair for the Caucasus at the Foreign Service Institute in 2002-2003, and as Associate Professor of East European Studies and Government at Uppsala University from 2003 to 2010. He is the author, among other, of Small Nations and Great Powers, (2001) the first comprehensive study of the post-Soviet Caucasus, and numerous academic and policy articles that have appeared in journals including World Politics, Journal of Democracy, Current History, Foreign Policy, Orbis, Journal of Peace Research, and Middle East Quarterly. His most recent book is Azerbaijan since Independence (M.E. Sharpe, 2011).

Friday, March 22, 2013

VIDEO - Dr Katrina Lantos Swett, Toward a Tolerant Tomorrow The Religious Freedom Imperative

Dr Katrina Lantos Swett, Toward a Tolerant Tomorrow The Religious Freedom Imperative

Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett established the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice in 2008 and serves as its President and Chief Executive Officer.

This human rights organization is proudly carrying on the unique legacy of the late Congressman Tom Lantos who, as the only survivor of the Holocaust ever elected to Congress, was one of our nation's most eloquent and forceful leaders on behalf of human rights and justice. In addition to managing the Lantos Foundation, Dr. Lantos Swett teaches human rights and American foreign policy at Tufts University. She also taught at the University of Southern Denmark while her husband, former Congressman Richard Swett, was serving as the U.S. Ambassador in Copenhagen.

Her varied professional experiences include working on Capitol Hill as Deputy Counsel to the Criminal Justice Sub-Committee of the Senate Judiciary Committee for then Senator Joe Biden and as a consultant to businesses, charitable foundations, and political campaigns.

Dr. Lantos Swett also has experience in broadcasting, having co-hosted the highly regarded political talk show "Beyond Politics" for many years on WMUR TV, New Hampshire's only network affiliated television station. As co-host, she interviewed state, national, and international figures, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Vice President Al Gore, First Lady Hillary Clinton, Members of the United States Congress, and George Stephanopoulos on the issues of the day.

From 2003-2006 Dr. Lantos Swett served as the Director of the Graduate program in Public Policy at New England College, where she now serves on the college's Board of Trustees. She is also a member of the Board of HRNK Human Rights in North Korea and the Tom Lantos Institute in Budapest. She has served on numerous Boards in the past, including the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium Foundation, the Institute for Justice Sector Development, the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling (co-Chair), and the NH Citizen's Commission on the State Courts. She has also been active in Democratic politics for over three decades. In 2002, she was the Democratic nominee for Congress in New Hampshire's 2ndDistrict, and she was chosen as a Presidential elector in 1992. She has been a member of the New Hampshire Democratic Party (NHDP) Executive Committee and served as Vice-Chair of the NHDP Finance Committee.

Under Dr. Lantos Swett's leadership as President and CEO, the Lantos Foundation has quickly become a distinguished and respected voice on many key human rights concerns ranging from rule of law in Russia and Internet freedom in closed societies to the on-going threat of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. The Foundation also supports human rights defenders around the globe through its Front Line Fund and runs the Lantos Congressional Fellows program in conjunction with Humanity in Action. Each year the Lantos Foundation awards the Lantos Human Rights Prize to an individual who has demonstrated a commitment to standing up for decency, dignity, freedom, and justice. Past recipients have included His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Professor Elie Wiesel, and Paul Rusesabagina.

Dr. Lantos Swett graduated from Yale University in 1974 at the age of 18 and earned her Juris Doctor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1976. She received her Ph.D. in History from the University of Southern Denmark in 2001. Dr. Lantos Swett has been married for 31 years to former Congressman and Ambassador Richard Swett and they are parents of 7 children and 2 grandchildren. She resides in Bow, New Hampshire.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


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