The Inaugural Turkish-African American Friendship Iftar Dinner was held Tuesday, July 7th at the American-Turkish Friendship Association (ATFA) in Fairfax, Virginia. The first meeting of these diverse communities was warmly received as the Turkish community and the African American community gathered around the same table to break bread during the holy month of Ramadan.
The room was full at the Association, drawing those from academia, government agencies, NGOs, interfaith groups, etc. Imam Taleb Shareef was the first up to the podium to speak upon his experiences during his time in Turkey and the lessons he wanted to share with the audience that he had learned while he was there. Through his studies of Islam for example, he learned that if we order our lives by beginning with what God gave us first, then that can be the foundation on which we can build upon when we gather together therefore, we will possess the ability to recognize our diversity and our common origin. Imam Taleb Shareef speech then centered on a reflection of the simplicity of nature and the connections human beings have with it during the month of Ramadan.
The next speaker of the evening was from the Somali Association of the Greater Washington Area who thanked ATFA and the Rumi Forum for bringing everyone together so that the different communities within African American society can see each other and exchange thoughts or ideas with one another when normally (especially in today’s busy society) they wouldn’t have the opportunity to do so. His speech centered on Turkish and Somali relations through history up to present day relations. He highlighted the struggles his country, which has been riddled with civil war and instability, has faced and how grateful he is of the Turkish government and its people for aiding the Somalis in their time of need. They distribute aid, and assist in startup infrastructure projects. ---- ended his speech on a high note saying, “It is also fitting to come to this meeting in the blessed month of Ramadan…it is a wonderful spiritual experience, that is not only about denying food and drink during the day, but has many other benefits like perseverance and self control, concern for others, feeling hunger so you can help the hungry and the poor. This month is a perfect time to come together to talk and experience and pray together. Ramadan is for everybody whether you're Muslim or not.”
Kimse Yok Mu (KYM) is an international humanitarian aid organization and development organization that has branched out to one hundred and thirteen countries since its founding. The main focus of the organization has been particularly concentrated in African countries, as the Former General Director of KYM Metin Cetiner said in his speech during the first Turkish-African American Friendship Iftar Dinner. Metin Cetiner gave examples of his organization's work in Somalia, serving hot meals to hundreds of thousands of people and providing emergency aid in the form of tents, clothes etc. “We constructed social aid buildings, schools and hospitals in [Kenya, Uganda, Somalia etc.]” He then touched upon the various American aid that his organization provides during the month of Ramadan, including the current projects the organization is tackling.
NAACP leader Jamiah Adams was the last of the speakers that evening, given her warmest thanks to the hosts. Her speech centered upon dialogue between communities. Beginning her address she quote a few words from the poet Rumi, “‘This being human is a guest house, every morning is a new arrival, a joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor--welcome and entertain them all. Treat each guest honorably , the dark thought, the shame, the malice, leave them at the door laughing and invite them in, be grateful for whoever comes because each has been sent as a guid from the beyond.’ I share these words because we as humans are kin in one family, desireable to be kind and welcoming to one another. Ramadan is one of my favorite time of year because it embodies that approach. We as Muslims have an opportunity to share our faith, our food with a greater American uma during this time. It is time for us to come together and break bread. It is time for us to reflect upon the words of a God, a contemplate being better persons and better Muslims.”
Jamiah Adams as well discussed her current works at the NAACP, the oldest and largest civil rights organization founded over one hundred and six years ago. She commented on the diversity that is included in the organization, especially during its founding and saying that, “History has dictated that when we work together across cultural lines, across faith, we resolve collectively our movement. It is time for us to come together dialogue among races and faiths to achieve dialogue that is common, conductive and strategic. It is time for us to smash the ills both at home and abroad.”