July 2, 2014

Gülen-linked GYV brings message of peace, dialogue to polarized Turkey

The 20th anniversary of the traditional annual dinner hosted by the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV), whose honorary chairman is Fethullah Gülen, was held on Tuesday in İstanbul, with a message focusing on peace, solidarity and dialogue against the backdrop of a highly politicized climate that has recently divided and polarized Turkish society.

GYV iftar
Distinguished guests attended the GYV iftar. (Photo: Today's Zaman)

“Let's emphasize the solidarity and unity and stop dividing society into different camps and groups,” said Gülen, sending a congratulatory message to the participants at the iftar (fast-breaking) dinner at İstanbul's Four Seasons Hotel that was attended by distinguished spiritual leaders in Turkey, politicians, artists, diplomats, businesspeople and journalists.

“If our hearts are still beating with the last remaining human feelings and we still have some strength left in our arms, let's not waste them and let's embrace one another,” Gülen stressed, adding to that respect for human values, burying the past with its tragic memories and doing away with hatred are necessary for reaching an understanding and unity in the society.

Delivering the opening speech at the event, GYV Chairman Mustafa Yeşil said the organization's iftar table brought together people from different segments of Turkish society under the theme of “Towards Universal Peace, 20th Anniversary.”

Yeşil said for 20 years since its establishment, the GYV has strived to emphasize living together in peace, pluralistic democracy, human rights and freedoms, and the rule of law. He said the GYV has dealt with difficult issues challenging democracy and social peace in Turkey with a view to contributing positively to resolving ethnic, sectarian and religious problems.

“We have dreamt of a Turkey where all kinds of guardianship would be buried deep in history, democracy and the rule of law would guarantee fundamental human rights and freedoms, and elected officials, using their majority obtained at the ballot box, would not crack down on those who did not vote for them,” Yeşil explained.

The GYV president also underlined that the foundation has a firm belief that this dream will be materialized in Turkey soon, paving the way for the rule of law to be restored.

The GYV was established in 1994, and the foundation's mission is inspired by Gülen, known for his teachings of hizmet (service), tolerance and dialogue.

Gülen responds to accusations

In his message, Gülen also explained why he has largely remained silent in the face of relentless attacks against him in a government-sponsored smear campaign, saying that he has never lost his faith in the Turkish nation.

“Frankly, the reason for my silence for all that time despite all the lies, smear campaigns, slanders and other evil plans is that I still hope and believe we can do the much-needed repentance altogether,” he said.

“The reason for my perseverance at times when one wants to speak up and say everything out loud is that I still hope and believe that all the bridges that we burned can be rebuilt,” Gülen added.

Gülen has suffered extensively at the hands of government media after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was implicated in a massive corruption scandal that erupted on Dec. 17 of last year, accused the Islamic scholar of orchestrating a coup against his government in collaboration with foreign powers.

He has not yet provided any evidence for his claims and accusations since then; yet, he has continued to attack Gülen publicly.

On various occasions, the prime minister has resorted to hate speech attacking Gülen and calling him a “false prophet,” “fake saint” and a “bogus scholar.” He has called the Gülen-inspired Hizmet movement a “parallel state,” “gang,” “illegal organization” and “raving Hashashins” -- referring to an order of assassins back in history.

The Erdoğan government has either reassigned or purged thousands of civil employees, mostly in the judiciary and police, in order to derail the corruption investigations that implicated the prime minister, his family members and close associates.

The opposition also argues that Erdoğan invented the "parallel structure" lie to shift the blame in corruption charges to others as well as to distract public attention away from his own troubles.

A recent revelation that the Erdoğan government has orchestrated an illegal investigation into the Hizmet movement by a prosecutor who asked the police to find out what the “parallel structure” -- a reference to the Hizmet movement -- is exactly, who the members are, what the objectives of this group are, how it is organized and what its human and financial resources are also drew rebuke from the opposition parties, members of civil society groups, journalists and jurists.

The Islamic scholar, who is critical of the corruption and authoritarian policies of the Erdoğan government, praised the participants at the GYV dinner, saying: “I still believe that the river of love dialogue will flow stronger as the result of your continuous efforts".

“I hope we will soon be hearing the melodies of love in every corner of the country and that the continuous exchange of love and respect will spread everywhere, creating a whole different atmosphere,” he added.

The Turkish nongovernmental organization GYV works toward its vision of national and global unity through its research center and five independent platforms, each of which specializes in a different field.

The platforms have won recognition for contributing to the intellectual resources of both the GYV and Turkey.

The GYV is also the first institution to earn a consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) from Turkey.

Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who is also honorary president of the GYV, delivered a message for the iftar dinner:

June 12, 2014, Pennsylvania

The message for the Iftar Dinner of The Journalists and Writers Foundation-2014

Valuable president, his colleagues at the Foundation, distinguished representatives of intellectual, political, art and business worlds…dear guests, the pioneers of philanthropy and altruism.

If you allow me I will address the audience as “we” counting myself in: We, while embracing our faith most sincerely on the one hand, accepted and respected the presence of other religious traditions and philosophies as the reality of life and started our journey saying “accept everyone for who they are and show respect”. Following this principle, we never looked down or offended anyone on the basis of racial, religious, sectarian or ideological orientation and always looked for ways of peaceful coexistence and getting together on beautiful humanitarian grounds.

We had begun our journey with most heartfelt feelings saying “haul, in the name of Allah” and keeping the basin of love all the way open. We had dreams in which we saw the humble efforts of love and compassion were growing and spreading all around, in spite of the fact that the times were stained with antagonisms. From the very outset we realized that the overwhelming majority of the society was with us on that. Society was responding very positively and we were sharing the same dreams. In the first years delicacy came together with grace once again and once again our hearts were in anticipation of a happy dawn being tired of blood and tears. Under the dome of heavens, people from different walks of life were telling stories of the heart and grudge and hate were being replaced by melodies of love and peaceful relations.

How sad it is that after all these that we have been through, once again we have become the slaves of our desires and primitive selves. Evil feelings enshrined the hearts of many of us which normally are the pavilions of love. Our souls were smothered in hate and antagonism. We can’t embrace, tolerate and love one another anymore. We almost enjoy destruction and settle ourselves in ruins like owls. We attack everything and everyone and go after devastation with an unlimited greed. We disrespect The Creator, our country and its people and commit unforgivable sins. We even go further and expect all these negativities be appreciated as if they were services to society.

Nowadays the sun rises to days full of injustice, violation and insanity and the nights are darker than one another. Human values are dysfunctional and fall under the primitive selves, sentiments are far ahead of logic and reasoning and love and tolerance are victimized and broken into pieces by antagonisms.

We condemned countless people with our prejudices. It is unforeseeable whom we will insult or damn and when. The overall situation makes us think that we are going through a collective schizophrenia and extensive madness. We are never satisfied with the oppression we make, never ashamed of violations we do and keep committing sin on a continuous basis.

The sin of disrespecting the Truth, the sin of grudge and hate against people, the sin of disrespecting different ideas, the sin of planting conflict and divisions in the society, the sin of seeing and thinking evil and dark, the sin of seeing ourselves innocent and the others guilty and sinner, the sin of condemning people to hell, the sin of sabotaging the good done by others and many other sins… The time must be the time to repent now.

Trying to avoid being didactic, I would like to call out and express my feelings: Let’s seize the opportunity as the days of light wrap our souls and start a purification repenting for the sins that I have just mentioned. Let’s be respectful to humans and protect human values. Let’s bury the past with all its negative memories and avoid reincarnating the fights of the past. Let’s emphasize the solidarity and unity and stop dividing the society into different camps and groups. If our hearts are still beating with the last remaining human feelings and we still have some strength left in our arms, let’s not waste them and embrace one another. Let’s look for ways to bring together the pieces of our own that we had shattered and make an indivisible one out of them. Let’s get away from hatred and wrath, which are like highwaymen and monsters on our way and try to understand the ways and language of the heart which would make us loved and enable us reach the Creator.

Frankly the reason for my silence for all that time despite all the lies, smear campaigns, slanders and other evil plans is that I still hope and believe we can do the much needed repentance altogether. The reason for my perseverance at times that one wants to speak up and say everything out-loud is that I still hope and believe that all the bridges that we burned can be rebuilt.

Yes, I still believe that the river of love dialogue will flow stronger as a result of your continuous efforts, since you are the heroes of virtues with a vast span of conscience. I still believe that mutual encounters and get-togethers which used to happen in their own delicate ways, will continue to bigger horizons. I hope we will soon be hearing the melodies of love in every corner of the country and continuous exchange of love and respect will spread everywhere creating a whole different atmosphere.

With these feelings I wish you a plentiful iftar which is entitled “Towards Universal Peace, 20th Anniversary” and salute the volunteers of the Journalists and Writers Foundation alongside with the honorable audience who has always maintained a perspective of peaceful coexistence.

With heartfelt love and respect.

M. Fethullah Gülen

Published on Today's Zaman, 02 July 2014, Wednesday