Journalists and Writers Foundation President Mustafa Yeşil accepted the prestigious peace award on behalf of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. In a message he sent to the ceremony, Gülen said he accepted the award not on behalf of himself but on behalf of numerous volunteers, amongst whom he views himself.
|The EastWest Institute (EWI) honored well-respected Turkish intellectual and scholar Fethullah Gülen with its 2011 EWI Peace Building Award for his contribution to world peace at an awards dinner held in New York on Tuesday.|
|Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) President Mustafa Yeşil received the prestigious award on behalf of Gülen. In a message he sent to the ceremony, Gülen said he accepted the award not on behalf of himself but on behalf of numerous volunteers, among whom he sees himself.
“I am humbled and honored by your kindness to consider me as the recipient of the prestigious EWI Peace Building Award given by the esteemed EastWest Institute. However, I can accept this award only on behalf of the countless volunteers from different creeds, religions, nationalities and backgrounds who have come together for nothing but to serve humanity. After all, how can I accept this award on my behalf? It is those people of noble character, who have foregone their own desires, dreams, ideals and comforts and dedicated themselves to helping others wake up to a better morning full of hope and confidence in their future,” he said.
Gülen noted that the collective personality and action of those heroic people is in fact who truly deserves the award and he has felt honored to be among and behind these respected people, but never considered himself in front of them and leading.
“You were kind enough to recognize their sacrifice and efforts,” he added.
Gülen is a Turkish Islamic scholar well known for his teachings promoting mutual understanding and tolerance between cultures. Now residing in the US, Gülen has pioneered educational activities in a number of countries, along with efforts to promote intercultural and interfaith activities around the world. He has written nearly 50 books in Turkish, some of which have been translated into several languages.
In his message, Gülen also described the features of the people who are carrying out educational activities across the world by making huge self-sacrifices and the motivations that prompted them to do so.
“Indulge me with the privilege to tell you a little bit more about them. A set of noble values is what has mobilized them all: Gaye-i hayal (the grand ideal of life), the pursuit of God’s will through serving His people (humanity). They consider this grand ideal as a key to their livelihood. Diğergamlık (altruism) is their fundamental characteristic that enables them to devote themselves to the fulfillment of such a noble goal. Mesuliyet duygusu (a sense of personal responsibility) is what moves them with compassion when they hear a child is dying somewhere in the world because of a lack of food, or a girl is deprived of her right to education because of the lack of schools. Finally, it is verme tutkusu (the passion of giving) which makes them donate generously from their time and money but expect nothing in return,” he explained.
Gülen noted that for the last several decades, these people have been working humbly but consistently to make this a better and more peaceful world where everybody embraces one another with love and understanding.
Democracy and freedom
In his message, the Islamic scholar also talked about the importance of having a strong democracy that “will accommodate our needs and enable us to attain our full potential as free individuals.”
“Our understanding of democracy is directly related to our understanding of human nature. That is, every human being is pure in the beginning, adorned with the seeds of numerous negative characteristics from jealousy to hatred and from greed to selfishness, and also positive characteristics from compassion to courage, from empathy to love. As such, a human being is likely to become everything. Only in truly free and democratic societies, and with an education guided by universally accepted norms and values, can individuals nourish these seeds of characteristics to benefit their societies,” he said.
Referring to democratic developments that have been made in Turkey over the past years, Gülen said he is very glad to see Turkey making great strides towards becoming one of the most free and democratic societies.
“Once upon a time, in fact not too long ago, it was a country where the free will of civilians was not respected; where elected officials could form governments, but were not able to govern; where the law protected only the mighty, but not the weak; where people were banished from enjoying their cultural identities; and where the press was free only to serve this established lawlessness, but not to expose it. Certainly, the journey of democratization is a rough one. But the people of my country have demonstrated time and again that they are determined to make that rough journey,” he said.
Award on behalf of Hizmet
At the end of his message, Gülen reiterated that he is receiving the EWI Peace Building Award on behalf of the countless volunteers of the Hizmet (service) Movement for their selfless work to bring peace and harmony to our world.
John Edwin Mroz, the president and chief executive officer of the EWI, also delivered a speech during the ceremony and said it is an honor for the institution to present the award to Gülen. A cinevision show explaining why the award was presented to Gülen was aired during the ceremony. The video featured comments from former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former US President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State James Baker and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright about Gülen. The video also underlined that immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks Gülen issued a message in The Washington Post condemning terrorism and offering his condolences to the victims, saying in it that a Muslim cannot be a terrorist and that one engaged in terrorism cannot be a Muslim.
Mroz said the peace award presented to Gülen is a very prestigious one, as it is presented once every year. He defined Gülen as a sincere Muslim who practices what he preaches. One of the world’s most influential Islamic scholars, Gülen came out at the top of the list of “The World’s Top 20 Public Intellectuals” by the magazines Foreign Policy and Prospect in 2008.
The New York-based EWI is an international, non-partisan, not-for-profit policy organization focused on confronting critical challenges that endanger peace.
Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei and Sergio Vieira de Mello, the late United Nations high commissioner for human rights who was killed in 2003 while serving as the UN secretary-general’s envoy to Iraq, are among former recipients of the award.