Statehouse Dinner 2007

Event Shots

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Date: Tuesday, October 9, 2007 6:30 PM Venue: Ohio Statehouse Capitol Atrium, 1 Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 43215 Theme: Ohio Statehouse Intercultural Ramadan Iftar Dinner Event Description: On October 9th, SEF organized an Interfaith and Intercultural Iftar Dinner in the Ohio Statehouse. Sponsored by the twenty six-member bi-partisan Host Committee composed of the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives, the event was attended by more than 30 State Senators and House Representatives, Ohio State Homeland Security, Ohio State Department of Public Safety, Deans of local-area universities, clergy and religious leaders, local businessmen and students. It served as a wonderful opportunity for people from all walks of life to socialize, establish dialogue and celebrate diversity. The program started half an hour before sunset, with a reception where attendees had an opportunity to view displayed works of Hat (calligraphy) and Ebru (marbling), two essential artworks of Turkish-Islamic heritage. Right after sunset, the Islamic Call to Prayer or Adhan, calling Muslims to break their daylong fast was followed by a short supplication to bless the gathering. After the Iftar meals were served, Yildirim, director of SEF, delivered the opening speech. Mr. Yildirim explained the meaning and significance of fasting in the month of Ramadan, expressing the great the need for dialogue which he said is not an option or a luxury, but a necessity. Citing this event as a successful example, he continued “we can prove that this is a situation of great richness, with remarkable opportunities for mutual understanding and for creating a society rooted in common values.” Mr. Yildirim concluded his speech by a quotation from M. Fethullah Gulen, from whom he and other members of SEF take inspiration to organize such events promoting love, compassion, dialogue and respect for others’ rights: “Together, listening and responding with openness and respect, we can move forward to work in ways that acknowledge genuine differences but which are built on shared hopes and values, to attain peace and to help bring about the long-awaited cooperation of world civilizations, and to encourage justice, love, respect and altruism.” Following the opening remarks, Mr. Alp Aslandogan, Vice President of the Institute of Interfaith Dialogue based in Houston, Texas, delivered the keynote speech. Reminding the audience that there are groups of people who benefit from conflicts and continued misinformation, Mr. Aslandogan brought attention to the importance of dialogue efforts such as tonight’s meeting which hopefully will give rise to “islands of peace” in the long run. He told “in today’s Global Village, misinformation travels faster, so for those who are interested in true information and peace, it takes more than watching mainstream media which mostly focus on exceptions. It requires making contacts, breaking bread, sincerely trying to understand each other, not buying into the prejudices and biases popularized under the disguise of pseudo-patriotism.” He called all to continue their dialogue efforts after the event which he sees as the only way to go beyond the smoke of misinformation as he quoted Said Nursi, the late Muslim Scholar from Turkey: “a grain of truth demolishes a castle made up of imaginations.” Senator Ray Miller called attention to Corinthians 13: 1 thru 8 from the Bible, which is also known as the “hymn of love” in which believers are called to faith, hope and charity. “Charity is most important among the three. The greatest charity is love; a kind of love that is not pitiful, but an agape love, which is an expression of real, altruistic love that is unconcerned with merit or reciprocity. That is what we need to establish, not only tonight but everyday of our lives; sustaining and empowering each other through loving one another,” said Mr. Miller. Senator Rob Schuler told “breaking bread means a lot to us legislators. We represent everyone. The more we know about all of Ohioans, the better we’ll do our job.” Mary Todd, Vice President of Ohio Dominican University shared with the audience how this event reminded her that Americans do not know much about religions. “Tonight was an introduction to that reality, and an invitation to go towards dialogue and learning about each other.” The Chicago-based world music group Lamajamal performed Sufi music with an Anatolian flavor which softened hearts and elevated the mood of all in attendance. In the end, President of SEF, Mr. Oguz Kurt received a Proclamation from the Mayor of Columbus, Mr. Michael B. Coleman, and a Resolution of Expression from the City Council of Columbus. The Proclamation while emphasizing Ohio’s diversity, announces that the Statehouse Intercultural Ramadan Iftar Dinner showcases Islam’s and Muslims’ rich culture, and heritage. The Resolution of Expression commends Scioto Educational Foundation, and the Turkish-American Community of Columbus for organizing “2007 Ohio Statehouse Intercultural Ramadan Iftar Dinner,” which celebrates the diversity of the State of Ohio.

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