October 20, 2013

Eid al-Adha in Rio

Sahin Alpay

I spent the second week of October in Brazil. What took me there was an invitation from a foundation founded by the former Brazilian President, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, for me to give a talk on Turkey’s domestic and foreign politics, in Sao Paulo.

Cardoso is a sociologist and social democrat leader who brought in the reforms that transformed Brazil into a market democracy and thus placed the country among the fastest growing countries of the world alongside China, India and Russia. And I spent three days of my stay in Rio de Janeiro -well-deservedly dubbed “the pear of the world”,- as a part of an organization by Zaman’s Brazil office. I have so much to share and this column will be just the beginning.

Turkey and Brazil are two countries, enormously distant and different as much as it can be from each other. Yet, they share a considerable number of past experiences. Thanks to the convenience of globalization, they have had the opportunity to get to know each other closer. Without a doubt, the soccer players Brazil has been transferring to Turkey and around the world at large, have initiated this acquaintance. The giant Turkish Airlines aircraft which flies daily from Istanbul to Buenos Aires via Sao Paulo is definitely the second facilitator of the acquaintance. The number of Brazilian tourists having visited Turkey over the past year reached 100 thousand, which has been continuously increasing as a result of convenience of visa-free travel.

The most effective and profound actor in this acquaintance process, on the other hand, has been without a doubt the Hizmet Movement inspired by the Honorable Fethullah Gulen’s teachings. I can list the movement’s initiatives in Brazil as follows: Its affiliated school “Colegio Belo Futuro Internacional” has been offering Portuguese-English bilingual education in the country since its establishment in 2007. It additionally offers Spanish and Turkish elective courses. It employs 37 teachers including 5 Turkish nationals teaching 150 students in elementary, middle and high school grades.

Brazil-Turkey Cultural Center (CCTB) has multiple locations in Sao Paulo, Rio and Brasilia. Basically, they offer Turkish and Portuguese language courses and organize cultural events. Turkey-Brazil Chamber of Commerce and Industry offices in Sao Paulo and Rio is organizing bilateral business events, in cooperation with TUSKON. Parenthetically, trade volume between the two countries recently rose above 2 billion dollar. The travel company, Atuf, is considerably boosting the tourism between the two countries. Currently, 35 Turkish students are studying at the universities in Sao Paulo and Rio with the scholarship provided by the movement. In addition to Zaman office, Cihan News Agency too has its representative (our friend Kamil Ergin) in Sao Paulo.

Maybe the most notable activity by the movement has been its Eid al-Adha meat distribution to the underprivileged Brazilians living in “favela” (meaning slum). Having originated in Sao Paulo in 2011, its aid distribution events–jointly by Kimse Yok Mu and the local administrations- will take place in Rio, Brasilia and Aracaju this year besides Sao Paulo. 10 tons of meat from the cattle slaughtered in accordance with Islamic rules will be distributed in 2-kg packages to those in need. The aim is to highlight fellowship and solidarity between the peoples and faiths.

Having expanded into 120 countries around the world, the movement is introducing Turkey to the world.

Published [in Turkish] on Zaman, 17 October 2013, Thursday

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