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

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hizmet Symposium Panel 1, Educational Paths to Peacebuilding

Transcript Below

-Before we get started with our panels today, we have opening remarks by the President, Emre Celik. He is the president of the Rumi Forum, here in Washington D.C. Please welcome Mr. Celik.

-Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning. On be half of the organizing community, advisor board members and partner institutions, I welcome each and every one of you to the 2013 Hizmet Movement and Peace Building Global Cases Conference. Study and research on any social civic movement is essential to understand its workings and secrets to its success. The Hizmet movement is no different, institutions like the Rumi Forum and those similar in nature, including educational, dialog and service organizations they have spread breadth and depth of the world. Now are more than 140 countries needs to be understood. Questions about the Hizmet movement methodology and outcomes needs to be asked, researched and answered. Such a conference provides a mean for others to replicate if need be and to dispel misunderstandings and ignorance. It also offers avenues for similar minded institutions to come together and work collaboratively around the shared values of the movement. I want to give a special thanks to the partner institutions, George Town University, Mt. St. Mary’s University, and American University and numerous scholars in an adviser board that played an important role in the making of this conference. We sincerely hope to the papers presented today and tomorrow lead to further discussion and greater understanding the important social and civic phenomena known as the Hizmet movement. I am personally eager and certain all participants here today are keen to hear each of the speakers and also hope to those not present, will take advantage of the proceedings which we will hope will be published in the near future. Again thank you one and all.

- Ladies and gentlemen for opening remarks, please welcome James Herrington of the Texas Civil rights project.

-So, good morning. I was invited to give some observations about Hizmet. It is almost five years ago today that I was sitting in church at the end the service, after it was all over, someone shout from the back anybody want to go to Turkey. And I thought well.. Why not? I knew nothing about the movement. I knew nothing about Islam. I knew nothing about anything about why I’m here today. And in a sense this is attribute to the work of the movement. End it up of course writing a book about Fethullah Gulen, the political trial he was involved in. I’ve traveled around the Europe and talked a lot of people and travel around the U.S. in Canada and done a lot of talks. And met a lot of people in the movement. And movement for me is very amazing, undertaking because I see it is having three parts from what I see on the outside looking in.

One of course is very important is dialog, the dialog that occurs when we go to diners. You know, the dinners at people’s houses or the dinner like we had last night or the dialog that is part of academic enterprise doing today or the dialog just goes on people sit down and talk each other and understand each other.

And another part I think it is a phenomenally important and impressive about Hizmet is the education component. Having built 1,500 schools around the world in 140+ countries. The importance of schools I think is because the reach out the people who have not otherwise had that education. The schools get a foothold in the Kurdish area of Turkey to start with, an area which the women, young women, will not have opportunities to go to school because their father didn’t want them, associating with young boys, or the importance of schools keeping people being involved in the terrorists efforts that were going on. It is better to go to school than to go to the mountains. So begin the see that. Texas, I’m from, we have 29 movement schools and we have 25 thousand students in the movement schools. There are 28 thousand people on the waiting list. To me was important about there schools is they reach out to the community that will not otherwise be adequately served. For example, in Texas, there are long border with Mexico. Or in Austin where I’m from, they are in poor areas. But last time I was in Turkey, I went to a movement school in Antalya. I’ve a picture but I cannot show until tomorrow apparently. I went to one of these schools in a very poor area in Antalya, and some talking to the kids I don’t forth or fifth grades and asked what do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be a teacher, I want to be a policeman, I want to be, you know, doctor all kinds of things kids say. But what strike me about it, if it wasn’t for that school, those kids would have no dreams. Those kids would have no dreams because they wouldn’t be in the school, they wouldn’t be thinking about this, they wouldn’t be thinking about what I can do. And we know building a civil society and peace building depends on education. Education is very important component of the movement.

The third part of the movement that I think very impressive is the idea of service, helping people. There is a helping foundation in Turkey, and foundations in each country. The foundation of Turkey, Kimse Yok Mu?, for example in the last major earthquake in Turkey, raised 37 million dollars in overnight with a telephone. Has provided aid throughout the world. Every time there is a catastrophe this Hizmet foundation show up and help people. We see it in local in Texas out today. As a matter of fact the Hizmet folks in Austin Texas are delivering a huge load of frozen meat to the food pantry where I volunteer on Saturday, that connection that was made through being in Church five years ago. As the importance of dialog, as the importance of Hizmet, the community services based on the education comes from Sufi movement, part of Islam, very moderate, what we call moderate but emphasizing souls seen each other. Souls helping each other. It is a movement to me in very many respects. It is what you see in early Christianity. You don’t have a form, there is not a formation of hierarchy, its service, helping people, meeting and a very important part of it is religious, motivation, Hizmet doesn’t try to convert but people exercising their spirituality. There is a Tracy Chapman song, Heavens here on earth, this reminds me the people that I’ve met all around the world in Europe and Canada and the U.S. involved in Hizmet:

“I’ve seen and met angels wearing the disguise
Of ordinary people leading ordinary lives
Filled with love, compassion, forgiveness and sacrifice”

That’s what the movement is about, building civil society. Not far from here you can go to Mark Luther King Memorial that have beautiful words that are prescribed and one of them is from a speech he gave in 1964 in Norway:
“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”

That is what I think the movement is all about. That is what peace building is about, that is what we are here to dedicate our time to during this symposium. I think for me this journey that I’ve been personally been on with Hizmet is very fantastic. It has changed my life, it has changed my own spirituality, it has helped me deepen my own spirituality and it has helped me understand better this final quote that I want to give you from Marry Anne Evans (George Eliot):

We make a living from what we get. We make a life from what we give. What we have done for ourselves dies with us. What we have done for others and for the world is immortal.

Thank you very much.