March 7, 2011

The Vision of Fethullah Gulen from Dialogue to Collaboration

Ayse Meva

From the moment I first came into this world 21 years ago, I have seen nothing but war, poverty, pain and suffering, and I couldn't help but lose hope for my future and the future of humanity.

The uncertainties as to the outcome of the future have made countless people anxious and apprehensive. It is so extreme that a single event on the other side of the world tomorrow can drastically change our lives forever. This is a constant struggle and a major concern that has had a negative effect on the plans and dreams of many.

In times like this, marginal people are talking about the clash of civilizations and using this idea to support their arguments with the happenings of today. However, many years before I was born, there was a man who, remarkably, knew that the future of humanity would be in such a terrible condition. And so began his initiative for a worldwide movement to implement a worldwide solution.

Fethullah Gulen
Fethullah Gulen
He is Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic scholar, writer and thinker who has been the inspiration for a global faith-based social movement through a dialogue of civilizations.

One of these dialogues was held on July 15 and 16 at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne as a two-day conference titled “From Dialogue to Collaboration: The Vision of Fethullah Gülen and Muslim-Christian Relations.

The aim of the conference was to explore Fethullah Gülen's worldwide contribution to Islamic studies, education, philanthropy and inter-religious dialogue through his personal and theological profile.

Abdullah Aymaz, a close friend and student of Gülen and a forerunner of the Gülen movement, explained during the conference that the world desperately needs the teachings of the Gülen movement as it is an ideal model for the world. The Gülen movement is doing what most cannot, that is, putting words into action. The only weapons they use in the battle against world chaos are love, compassion and sincerity.

“The Gülen movement is one which is based on the core principles of love and compassion,” explains Aymaz. “Its focus is on the improvement of the individual, not of financial or political gain whatsoever. It's a very sincere movement, and this is the reason why it has spread so fast and wide throughout the world. If there was no sincerity, it wouldn't have lasted a single day.”

In a time of war, poverty and oppression, the Gülen conference has brought people of different faiths and backgrounds, religious leaders, scholars and academics together through the medium of dialogue. “Dialogue is not the goal, it is the methodology,” says Father Thomas Michel from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

“Muslims are not engaging in dialogue activities simply because it was requested by Gülen; we are doing it because the holy Quran prescribes it,” explains Aymaz. “Gülen only emphasizes its importance and reminds us of its worth to humanity and that it is a behavior which pleases the Creator.”

“How can people move beyond the realms of the past, devise freedom and relate to one another in beneficial and productive ways?” asks father Michel in his talk. “It is by empathetically teaching forgiveness, which is written in all of our scriptures.”

Gülen is a “border transgressor” according to associate Professor İhsan Yılmaz from Fatih University in İstanbul; he is one who is open to the hybridization of civilizations.

“Gülen is not innovating or inventing, he is renewing and polishing Islamic ideals and taking it back to its original,” he explains. “He is basically re-interpreting Islam and in doing so what he comes up with is in tune with Islamic ideals. He is not making something new, he is updating the old.”

Gülen is extremely sensitive towards the protection of human life, irrespective of faith, race or culture. “He not only felt great sorrow during the Gulf War when many innocent Muslims lost their lives, he also felt deep sorrow when he heard that missiles were fired by Saddam Hussein upon innocent Israeli children,” explains Aymaz. “He always stood on the side of those who were innocent, and he always implored his community to do the same.”

To be exposed to a movement like this through such conferences has given me life again and strong hopes for the future. It has made me believe that it is through a dialogue of civilizations that most world issues can be solved.

“Inter-religious cooperation in the area of peacemaking should be our key priority for relations in the coming years,” urges Father Michel. “We must work actively to overcome physical, spiritual and emotional matters caused by violence and to prevent the conditions which lead to future violence.”

“This conference is not the first of its kind, it's been done in most parts of the world,” explains Aymaz. “One month ago it was done in Berlin, which was very successful. The success of these conferences lies in the positive messages and outcomes they portray to listeners from all over the world.”

“One of the strengths of these Gülen conferences is that it has people that are actively inside the movement and people who are on the outside, and these two perspectives are set up in such an efficient way that it keeps the dialogue going,” says Professor Greg Barton from Monash University in Melbourne.

“We had a similar conference last year in the House of Lords in London and two different universities about Fethullah Gülen's discourse,” explains Dr. Hasan Hörküç, a research fellow from Durham University in the UK. “It's just a matter of time before this will be a global issue, and it will receive more awareness day by day.”

“We have to keep on doing this,” says Father Michel. “We have to get together sharing ideas, we have to inspire each other, we have to work together and we just have to keep on doing it. We have to broaden the base little by little so that more and more people see that this is the way we live together. We have come to know each other, we have come to live and work together because that's what God wants.”

Fethullah Gülen, his followers and his Christian and Jewish supporters have given hope and understanding to humanity through dialogue and collaboration. I speak on behalf of the hundreds of people worldwide who have regained their hopes for the future in commending them for their fine work and efforts. I pray for them and for the betterment of the future of our world.

Published on Today's Zaman, 21 July 2009, Tuesday