Peace Islands Institute (PII), formerly IDC, hosted its first annual “Dialog and Friendship Dinner” at The Merion in South Jersey on October 20th, 2011. The theme of the night was “Poverty: Time to Act Together”. The program started with the reception at 5:30 p.m. Guests enjoyed the refreshments and PII Art & Essay Contest Exhibit while they had opportunity to meet and socialize with each other.
Keynote speakers were Dr. Jon Pahl and Rev. Dr. Katie Day, both from Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.
Among dignitaries, Burlington City Mayor Dr. James Fazzone, Willingboro Township Mayor Eddy Campbell, Delran Township Mayor Ken Paris, Burlington County Sheriff, a representative from Burlington County Prosecutor’s office, a representative from the office of NJ State Police, and pastors from various churches were attendants.
After the reception, guests were allowed into the main ballroom to have their seats. South Jersey Representative for PII, Murat Bayram, welcomed the guests and briefly announced itinerary of the program of the night. While guests were enjoying the traditional Turkish food with Turkish Sufi music at the background, they conversed with each other in a warm atmosphere.
Following the dinner, Dr. Levent Koc, Executive Director of NJ for PII, presented his welcoming remarks. Dr. Koc emphasized on the name transition from Interfaith Dialogue Center to Peace Islands Institute. He stated that motive behind adapting the new name was because IDC recently started to organize events that reached beyond the boundaries interfaith dialogue, and therefore, he stated that it was decided to adopt the name “Peace Islands Institute”. Dr. Levent Koc also touched on topic of the night, Poverty: Time to Act Together, by referring the drought in Somalia and neighboring countries. As an example to act to together to reflect our delicate feelings to such issues, Dr. Koc mentioned the Gulen Movement’s recent activity towards Somalia. Mr. Gulen conveyed his sincere feelings and concerns to his friends regarding the famine in Somalia and he suggested something has to be done for the people of Somalia. After he shared his thoughts with his friends in the month of Ramadan, his thoughts conveyed through grassroots globally and, as a result, $ 300 million dollars collected as donations in a month.
Then, first speaker of the night Dr. Katie Day was invited to podium and gave a presentation on poverty in US and the world with its reasons and possible solutions statistically. Dr. Katie Day is a professor at The Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. She referred one of her students at the seminary and her thought on US people. The student’s thought was that the US people are raised or programmed to turn each other down. The student’s objective was to point that in the case of poverty in US, people will let each turn down. Her thesis is to let US people unite and act together for such conditions in the other parts of the world so that US people learn to help others.
Rev Dr. Katie Day talked about Proverty in NJ with a powerpoint presentation. She used graphs showing the Precentage of people living below poverty, Child poverty Rates from 2006-2009 and etc. She showed some examples from the Prophet Isaiah… Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice…. to let the oppressed go free…to share your bread with the hungry and to bring the homeless poor into your house………then shall your light break forth like the dawn. The Quran: Woe to those who pileth wealth and layeth it by, thinking that his wealth would make him last (104:1-3). From Greek Scriptures Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or naked or sick or in prison and did not take care of you?…Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to the least of these, you did not do it to me. (Matthew 25: 44-45)
After Dr. Katie Day completed her presentation on poverty, Dr. Jon Pahl proceeded to podium and presented facts, sociology, morals, and philosophy of the “Hizmet Movement” by providing few examples. Dr. Jon Pahl is professor of History and Christianity at The Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He briefly explained the Hizmet Movement, or Gulen Movement, in six circles. He shared his appreciation of the activities and sound results of the movement globally. His research on the movement started with his participation in one the “Turkey Trip” programs sponsored by the organizations that are founded by Turkish businessmen, professionals, and educators who are inspired by the teachings of Fethullah Gulen. He stated that he uses one of the Mr. Gulen’s books, Love & Tolerance, to teach his students at the Seminary.
As the program approached to end, the video about Fethullah Gulen, prepared by the EastWest Institute (EWI), was shown to the audience to provide more information about Mr. Gulen. The EastWest Institute is a prestigious think-tank organization that recognizes and presents awards to people, community, or a group that has contributed to global peace. In last spring, Mr. Gulen was awarded EWI 2011 Peacebuilding Award. The video demonstrated the reason for their decision.
In the closing, Burlington City Mayor Dr. James Fazzone, Willingboro Township Mayor Edy Campbell, Delran Township Mayor Ken Paris, and Rev. Jane Brady were invited to the stage to deliver their remarks on the night. Dr. Levent Koc presented hand-crafted ceramics to dignitary speakers; Dr. Katie Day and Dr. Jon Pahl.
At the end, the MC of the night Murat Bayram, on behalf of the Peace Islands Institute, thanked Turkish Cultural Center for the contribution they put forth in the organization of the event, thanked Calligraphy Artist Salih Gocmez for writing guests’ names as gift, and thanked guests for their attendance. The PII had two presents for the guests: calligraphy writings and emblem printed on towels, which were handed out at the end of the program.
Pictures from the event:
Remarks from Jane Brady
Remarks from Burlington City Mayor Dr. James Fazzone
Remarks from Willingboro Township Mayor Eddy Campbell
Remarks from Delran Township Mayor Ken Paris,