The role of the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, has been highlighted during an international conference held in the Republic of Benin attended by African religious leaders and intellectuals.
The Gülen movement is inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.
The conference titled, “The Role of the Hizmet Movement in Promoting a Culture of Peace by Interfaith Dialogue: Journalists and Writers Foundation” was held in Benin's city of Cotonou between May 26-28. The two-day conference was organized at a congress center in Cotonou by the Republic of Benin's Education Ministry. The event was also supported by the African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Over 100 religious leaders and intellectuals from Africa attended the conference.
Vice President Hüseyin Hurmalı represented the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) at the conference. During his speech, Hurmalı shared details about the efforts of the GYV and Gülen in maintaining a culture of peace in the context of interfaith dialogue.
Gülen is the honorary chairman of the GYV.
Introducing Gülen as a Turkish Islamic scholar well-known for his teachings promoting mutual understanding and tolerance between cultures, Hurmalı added that Gülen “is known for his philosophical and active stance for human rights, democracy, interfaith and intercultural dialogue, science, and spirituality.” Saying also that Gülen promotes sympathy, compassion and harmonious coexistence in his teachings, Hurmalı also said that the Gülen movement has undertaken the mission to promote peace with different institutions all around the world.
Hurmalı noted that the main focus of the Gülen movement is education, referring to Gülen's sayings: “Ignorance is the most serious problem,” and “Education has always been the most important way of serving all of humanity.” He further said that Gülen believes globalized educational activities create the groundwork for “establishing dialog with other civilizations,” thus education and dialogue initiatives have happened to be the main areas of concentration for the Gülen movement in order to fight against ignorance and internal schisms. “Opening new schools all over the globe and the great financial support of Anatolian philanthropist businessmen were also effective in fighting against the third enemy -- poverty. These initiatives created work-capital both in the area of education, and in further areas created by the movement, such as media and financial institutions, charity organizations and relief foundations.”
There are more than 100 Gülen-inspired schools in Africa, as well as other parts of the world. The government praised these schools in the past as key institutions promoting Turkish culture abroad.
The GYV's vice president also said that the Gülen movement tries to counter all forms of extremism and radicalization by pursuing intercultural and interfaith dialogue, which are seen as two of the most important solutions for all social, political, cultural and religious conflicts around the globe.
Saying that the educational efforts of the Gülen movement are very significant as education is seen as a means to achieve social peace in a country, Hurmalı added: “Individuals seeking to establish schools and dialogue centers around the world believe that social justice and peace are achieved by intellectually enlightened people with strong moral values and a sense of altruism.” Hurmalı added that journalists and writers have an important educational role in shaping the ideas of humanity, particularly in regards to dialogue between cultures, ethnicities and religions.
Pointing to the GYV's role in achieving peace, Hurmalı continued: “The basic mission of the GYV is to contribute to society by enriching what already exists -- the culture of living together, which is somewhat forgotten in the contemporary world. The GYV`s aim is to look for ways to find opportunities to build a common living space based on reconciliation and mutual respect.”
The opening speech of the conference was held by Beninese President Thomas Yayi Boni who called on all African Union member countries as well as Africans to resolve conflicts that have been terrorizing Africa and the globe via interreligious and intercultural dialogue.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also sent a written message for the conference. In his message he emphasized the significance of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, saying that tolerance and mutual harmony among various interreligious and intercultural groups is the basic way to live together in peace.
Published on Today's Zaman, 29 May 2015, Friday