The Iftar dinner with friends of Anatolia was attended by more than 60 people ranging from academics to NGO leaders. Most of the participants were previous attendees of Rumi Forum's Turkey trips.
Todd Theringer, part of the Harvard Club of DC, began the talks by sharing his experiences of the trip to Turkey. Explaining that “prior to the trip, if you had mentioned Turkey to me, I would have thought Thanksgiving”, Mr. Theringer described how his visit of the country significantly changed his perspective. He gave an example of this awareness through his eagerness to meet Kurds when traveling around Cappadocia, before realizing that everyone around him was Kurdish. As a result of these experiences, he explained that “my whole concept of Turkey vs. Kurdish and East vs. West started to blend together” and that his curiosity regarding the region has grown. He finished by thanking Rumi Forum for organizing the trip.
Jennifer Cate followed upon Theringer and positively described her visit to the Middle-Eastern country. Although she “for years had a crush on Turkey”, it turned into “full-blown love” after the visit with the Rumi Forum. She praised the wide-range of Turkish individuals they were able to meet, from journalists to politicians, and the many activities they were able to embark on. Their trip coincided with the upcoming parliamentary elections, and Ms. Cate explained her resulting growth in knowledge of the political landscape of the country, even though she realized “with each meeting how little we know”. She applauded the Turkish sense of hospitality and the unforgettable experience she went through.
Paul Wee, a lecturer at George Washington University, built on the remarks of the previous speakers. He began by explaining that he has learned that breaking bread with others “allows people to see things they did not see before.” Describing a pleasant meal with a family who welcomed him into their home in Ankara, Wee emphasized how important the value of sharing truly is. Mr. Wee also praised Mehmet’s ability to introduce the members of the trip to personalities of the Turkish parliament and media, providing a “great learning experience”. He then briefly addressed his concerns for “the direction of the country”, mentioning the detainment of journalists and the government’s shift towards more rightist policies. He emphasized his fears of the country’s changing politics, drawing a comparison with Germany in the 1930s which eventually turned to Hitler’s Nazism. Focusing on the Gulen movement, he congratulated “the fantastic work that is being done” while criticizing the pressure on Hizmet in Turkey. Mr. Wee then discussed the theological aspect of his trip, highlighting the importance of values of love and forgiveness. Rather than contrasting faiths, Wee emphasized focusing on the common principles of these religions, therefore “transcending differences.” Having such discussions, he explains, created a closer personal relation between him and Islam. Paul Wee expressed his hope that “this dynamic may overcome the hostilities and bring us together in a world of peace” to conclude his remarks.
Paul Wee, George Washington University
Todd Theringer, Harvard Club of DC
Jennifer Cate, HANDS
|2015 Ramadan Iftars|