By Niagara Intern Staff: Polina Zasheva, Emma Hornor and Eleanor Peck
Nearly seventy-five legislators and staff attended the annual Turkic cultural reception at the State Capitol, hosted by Niagara Foundation. The event awarded attendees and guests with the chance to dialogue with lawmakers over a buffet of Turkish food and coffee on topics of interfaith, multiculturalism and global acceptance.
When asked what this program had to offer Vice President of Niagara Foundation Mevlut “Hilmi” Cinar stated, “We are coming with representatives of many cultures with hope to introducing them to our legislators”. The reception took place in Secretary of State Jesse White’s office. Representatives from the Turkish-American and Kyrgyzstani-American communities in Illinois conversed with the legislators and staff members of the Joint Task Force on Illinois-Turkish Relations.
Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, a member of the task force and long-time friend of Niagara Foundation addressed the group and expressed his enthusiasm for the organization. He asserted that “[his] experience with Niagara Foundation has been very positive.” He continued saying that “[the foundation] works with all elements of society, trying to bring people together, to develop a better understanding of each other. And, to learn that people generally are good people and everyone can live in peace and harmony”.
Furthermore, House of Democrats representative Jack Frank noted, “I wish more groups would copy what Niagara does. It is so important for people to understand the different cultures. It brings folks together. I think it is because of Niagara’s work you’re seeing benefits, not only culturally, but also in business. We’re working on a bill right now to help a Turkish corporation do some business here right in Illinois. That would never have happened without Niagara’s intervention and leadership.”
The Consul General of Turkey, Fatih Yildiz, and Greek Orthodox Bishop Demetrios also spoke about the importance of the Niagara Foundation and its goals of fostering communication and acceptance across cultures and religions.
“I am a friend of Niagara and of course I am here to partake in the wonderful dialogue. I have been with Niagara for many years now and still I am fazed by the amazing work everyone does”, explained Bishop Demetrios with a smile.
Senate president John Cullerton addressed the attendees in the room saying, “I am also happy to be here with friends from Turkey. I had the pleasure of going to Turkey twice, not as many times as the Speaker, but nonetheless a very interesting trip. In fact, I enjoyed it so much the first time that I went back and took our whole family and friends and we tricked our children into going on a field trip every day because that’s what Turkey’s like. Five thousand years of history, it was fascinating and the people there were very warm.”
The positive feedback from audience members, speakers, and prominent leaders in Illinois politics was overwhelming. At large, guests were inspired by Niagara’s mission and drive to promote global fellowship, establish a platform for socially responsible partnerships, and encourage conversations centered on multiculturalism, interfaith, and interpersonal growth. Most importantly, the dialogues resonated with Niagara’s efforts to create a mechanism for learning that extends beyond a classroom or every day work setting.