Rumi Forum hosted guests from Truman National Security Project along with Turkish-American community leaders for Ramadan Iftar on 26th June, 2015. President for Center for National Policy, Scott Bates, delivered a short speech, followed by Truman Fellows Joshua Walker and Jen Nedua.
President Scott Bates addressed the attendees of the Ramadan dinner, delivering a short message on the power of believing in hope and ultimate justice. “The arc of history bends slowly to justice”, he said, echoing the words of Martin Luther King. Despite the deep tragedies and sorrows of our time, in the United States and elsewhere in the world, there are always new opportunities for healing and new birth of freedom for our nations.
Truman Fellow Joshua Walker touched upon the value of loyalty and friendship in the relationship between America and Turkey. Despite the “difficult” friendship, he considers Turkey their closest allies and puts his faith and hope in continuing a healthy partnership with the Turkish people at large. Citing his love for Turkish culture and hospitality and Ramadan as one of his favorite holiday periods, he says, “To just be embraced regardless of peoples’ political views - this shows us the real future of the relationship. Its’ going to be done by people like us, by future leaders, who can look past political differences, challenges of the situation, difficulties of geography and the bridging of worlds by doing it one person at a time, one meal at a time.”
Mr. Walker advises friends of Turkey to be both critical and skeptical of the euphoria and also skeptical and cautious of extreme pessimism, when dealing with news of the ever-changing political landscape of the country. The history of all countries has been to take one step forward and two steps back, and so it is with Turkey. He believes that the senseless violence pervading the Middle East, the ongoing conflicting wars in Syria and Iraq, the tendency towards authoritarianism in the region can only be countered when diverse groups of people come together to engage in dialogue and discussion. Even though the volatile political period in Turkey promises a difficult road ahead, it is a struggle that can be overcome if embracing diversity is marked as the way to move forward.
“Thinking about the future and where we go as a progressive community focused on national security, we have to speak to our own populations…Just like many of us in this [American] community, we don’t fit into a nice box.” Mr. Walker emphasizes the problem of categorizing people into boxes, instead urging the U.S. government and Turkey to move beyond bigotry and myopic visions and learn how to broaden perspectives and adapt to each other. Turkey’s great challenge in the current period is to move towards a truly people’s driven democracy. In a world that is deeply interconnected, Mr. Walker believes it is America’s responsibility to “reach out and be our brothers’ keepers” across the waters.