October 26, 2014

Fethullah Gülen's message to the Geneva Peace Conference

Fethullah Gülen*

Distinguished participants of Geneva Peace Conference,

I wish to express my sadness for being unable to be with you at this conference on Mobilizing Civil Society for Building Peace. This sadness, though, is somewhat counteracted by the nice fact that intellectuals and civil society organizations from different religions, languages and cultures of the world have managed to gather for the sake of building peace. Allow me to consider your invitation a most beautiful gift and a herald of peace now that you sent it to me at a time when my heart was utterly aggrieved by the conflicts in the Middle East and in my own country. Because, the best gift to a person with a torn heart and crying eyes who has dedicated his life is to rebuilding the lost paradise on earth would be to hear that there is still hope for universal peace.

In my humble opinion, building peace means building the peace-loving man. Unless man is not placed at the center of the solution to the problems that emerged in and from the man, investing in political and legal systems will remain a waste of time and resources. Our Almighty Maker has created in every man the natural disposition to good and beauty. However, man, in his excesses, sometimes misuses his potentials inherent in his nature. Indeed, this shift in nature is the worst natural disaster that befalls the man. The gloomy pages of history have ample examples of so many people killed by other people for the sake of more power, more land and ambition for even more; the sum of all earthquakes and tsunamis would fail to match the numbers of men killed by other men. Unless these shifts in human nature remain uncured, such human forms which are a disgrace to human species will not cease to exist.

Government institutions and administrators sometimes sacrifice education policies to their own selfish interests and set out to raise generations that will support their own parties, ideologies and rule. Such selfish attitudes cannot lead to building the peace-loving man. Therefore, building the new man should be the role of the civil society. Mobilizing the civil society is particularly vital in societies where democracy is limited to putting ballot boxes before citizens when the election results have already been established. Civil society organizations are altruistic in nature. Civil society activity in areas including education and the media both safeguards democracy and guarantees raising of new generations in a climate of tolerance and dialogue.

The purpose of all the religions and moral doctrines I know is to build the peace-loving man. This could refer to international peace, interpersonal peace, peace with other elements of the nature or inner peace of the man. I acknowledge that developing a perspective of peace is possible also through the enabling criteria of reason and conscience alone; however, I believe that large masses could get to love peace only through the encompassing and overarching climate of a religion. It is sad, though; almost all the major religions in the world have been abused by fundamentalists as an outfit to cover up their political pursuits and made to serve as a catalyst of conflict at one time or another throughout the history. Yet, the sacred origins of all religions and moral doctrines have sufficient material to build peace. Peace is essential and the exploitation of religious texts for the sake of war and conflict is an atrocity against not only people but also these religious texts. Therefore, the followers of all religions and particularly those of Judaism, Christianity and Islam as they come from the Abrahamic tradition, must organize joint activities for world peace, exchange ideas at events such as your meeting and seek ways to translate these ideas into practice. This is more than necessary not only to safeguard world peace but also to preserve the religions in their true and authentic form. Previously, I had brought a proposal regarding the issue of Jerusalem and Palestine which seem to be the source of almost all conflicts in the Middle East; my proposal was to grant Jerusalem a supranational and supra-religious status including visa-free access for the followers of all religions and to develop a unique administration for the city whereby it would be governed by a committee under the United Nations comprising the representatives of three Abrahamic religions. I now see this proposal makes more sense than ever today as the ISIS terror continues to agonize the Middle East. Had this proposal been put into practice, this city which has been the subject of ongoing conflicts and disputes might have become a city of peace, as signified by its name, Jerusalem, which originates from Darusselam, that is, the land of peace.

I am very pleased to see that you have dedicated a specific part of your conference to the media and building peace. As the pace of globalization gains in a dizzying speed, communications in general and the Internet and mobile devices in particular have an important role in influencing young generations. The media should understand that when it chooses to twist the truth and facts, promote the culture of conflict and polarize the society as "us and them", the resulting destruction will not be limited to its own time but it will sooner or later turn back on the media itself and recovery will take years or even generations. I hope that your conference will also make a call to the world media for identifying and promoting ethical values for building the man of peace.

People who have dedicated themselves to goodness, peace and service to others do not expect the acknowledgment or praise of others. On the other hand, I believe that all participating civil society organizations, distinguished speakers and organizers of your conference deserve a heartfelt praise because of their contributions to the world peace and for their exemplary efforts. The date of the conference, October 24th, is also very meaningful as it is the United Nations Day, and I take it as a fresh call to the United Nations for building global peace, which is why the United Nations was established. I congratulate the organizing Journalists and Writers Foundation, Institute of Dialogue and Intercultural Cooperation, Media@Lab Institute of the University of Geneva and 33 civil society organizations from 25 countries.

*Honorary Chairman of the Journalists and Writers Foundation

Published on Journalists and Writers Foundation, 25 October 2014, Saturday