April 20, 2015

Love is a verb

“Love Is A Verb” premiered at Iowa State on April 15. The film has won multiple film festivals — three of the seven it was entered in — and it has been shown all over the world.

It has been seen in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, at Harvard and even shared an opening in Toronto with Tom Cruise and “Edge of Tomorrow.”

“At Iowa State, people come from all over,” a representative of the ISU Society of Peace and Dialogue said. “We all have to live together. We [the SPD] try to bring in lectures and other things that can have an impact on even just 200 or 300 students.”

To say this film had an impact does not justify it.

One student told the executive producer after the film ended that the documentary had changed his life just there and then. His eyes were opened to a new perspective.

The documentary was put together well. It focused on the Gulen movement that began in Turkey after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The movement takes teachings from Islam and applies them to educating impoverished areas. The movement spreads the ideas of love, sharing and the importance of those teachings.

The Gulen movement also began a policy of inter-religious talks to reach common goals of peace and education. Muslims, Jews, Christians and others all supply their fundamental teachings to the movement. Love your neighbor as you would love yourself is a familiar Christian teaching, one that has identical counterparts in the other religions.

The heart of the documentary pointed to these similarities.

“Don’t look for the differences, look for the similarities,” said executive producer Kenneth “Buzz” Hunter.

In these similarities, people can come together for a common goal. The documentary highlighted the education programs set up in poor and struggling areas. They range from Turkey to Iraq to the U.S.

“We just wanted to create some awareness with this film that peace is possible,” said the SPD representative.

The documentary came about to put the Gulen movement in a spotlight in America. It is one of two documentaries in the world on the subject, the other coming from Germany.

Most people in America do not know of the movement. It’s influence, however, can be found in many charter schools across the country. Teachers from Turkey and other countries that believe in the message of the Gulen movement, whether they follow its Islamic roots or not, come and use these values in poor neighborhoods in America to strengthen education.

The style of teaching is different. It is a form of service to the people who need it. The Gulen movement is also often called the Hizmet movement. Hizmet means service.

The teaching style finds a basis in love because love is a verb. Love is an action.

“You know what MLK did when people threw rocks, how he responded?” Hunter asked the audience. “With love. That’s ridiculous to me … amazing to me.”
The Gulen movement gives the same message. Respond with love. The movement inspired former Iowa Senator Daryl Beall to visit Turkey while he was still in Congress.

“I’m just interested in the Gulen movement,” Beall said. “I’m all about bulding bridges between groups — between America and Turkey, between Christians and Muslims.”

No matter what religion forms the base of the Gulen movement, it is still inspiring and something everyone could learn from.

The sheer hospitality that is impressed upon those of the Islamic faith from the beginning that is incorporated into the Hizmet movement is truly refreshing.

The representative from SPD is himself a Muslim, and he and his partners invited executive producer Hunter, former Senator Beall and myself to dine with them after the film.

They proceeded to share with us six traditional Turkish dishes — and dessert with tea to finish the meal.

It was at this meal that the title of the film really struck in my head and in my heart. The movement spreads love and sharing to different goals like educating the world.

I became a witness to the love and sharing. Then, I was part of the love and sharing.

“The movement really comes down to you don’t possess anything, you’re possessed by something,” Hunter said.

I no longer see it. I feel it now. Love is a verb.

Excerpted from the article published on Iowa State Daily, 20 April 2015, Monday