Niagara Foundation publicly recognizes outstanding achievements of those recipients who have distinguished themselves in their profession, time, energy, expertise and service to humanity. The awards are based on a variety of factors, including community service, education, community educational involvement, professional and community honors, business and professional leadership, media and educational honors.
September 17, 2009
Niagara Peace & Dialog Award: Virg Bernero
The recipient of the 2009 Peace and Dialog Award is Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.
The award is presented to Mayor Bernero due to his significant contribution and commitment to diversity in our community. The award ceremony was held during the Annual Dialog and Friendship Dinner on September 17, 2009.
Niagara Foundation-Michigan started this new tradition in Michigan by giving Annual Peace & Dialog Awards to recognize individuals and organizations who contributed their time, energy, and leadership to the cause of dialog, peace, education, community service, tolerance and mutual understanding in Michigan.
Mayor Bernero has long understood the importance of diversity in our community. Mayor Bernero created the city’s first Office of Community and Faith-based Initiatives (OCFBI), which coordinates the City’s human service activities and promotes minority business enterprises. Last Spring, Mayor Bernero held his fourth annual Celebrating Diversity Day with over 1,000 attendees. The festival highlights the many cultural influences found in Lansing, including ethnic cuisine, language study, visual and musical arts, dance and numerous other activities. Mayor Bernero has also partnered with East Lansing Mayor Vic Loomis to establish the Mayors’ Ramadan Unity Dinner (now in its third year) with the net proceeds being donated to the Mid-Michigan and Greater Lansing Food Banks.
M. Fethullah Gulen
Honorary President, Niagara Foundation
M. Fethullah Gulen was born in the small village of Korucuk, in Erzurum Province, Eastern Turkey, in November 1938. Known by his simple and austere life style, Mr. Gulen has been from his earliest years a gifted Islamic scholar and thinker, and a creative writer and poet. His father taught him Arabic, and initiated in him his profound love of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and his Companions. Later he continued his studies under the guidance of some of the most prominent Islamic scholars in Eastern Turkey. He received further training in the religious sciences.
Mr. Gulen, so distinguished himself that he was asked to begin teaching when he was only fifteen. He did so while continuing his studies in the religious sciences. Blessed with extraordinary oratory skills, even at young age, Gulen was recognized as one of the more accomplished Islamic preachers in the early 1950s, mentioned in the same breath with some of the more learned scholars, many years his senior, in Eastern Anatolia.
Gulen devoted his life trying to solve society’s ills and spiritual sufferings, and inspired the establishment of many charitable organizations to serve the welfare of the underprivileged. He published a number of well-known books, most of which remain on the best seller list in Turkey, and have also been translated into English. These include The Infinite Light, Questions, Towards the Lost Paradise, and Truth through Colors.
At a time when humanity is in a desperate need of leaders and role models, we find a true innovator and an inspirational leader as well as a deeply good man in M. Fethullah Gulen.
When he retired from formal teaching studies in 1980 he had inspired a whole generation of young students, many of whom are leaders in their communities today and of course, Niagara Foundation itself, especially they are the purpose of this evening, all based upon the work of this man.