By Victor Edwin SJ
NEW DELHI: In a recent Conference of Jesuits Among Muslims in Rome (September 2011) presenting his views on Hizmet movement, Prof Thomas Michel SJ of Georgetown University, Washington concluded: “‘Are Gülen and the Hizmet community friends or foes?’ I must answer that they are our friends. They are the kind of Muslim interlocutors for an active dialogue for which we have been searching since the time of Nostra Aetate.”
Prof Leo D Lefebure, a colleague of Prof Michel at Georgetown University who is currently on sabbatical in India presented a gripping narrative of his own experiences with the followers of Fethullah Gülen and Hizmet movement that affirmed the comments of Prof Michel at a meeting organized at Indialogue Foundation on 12 February 2012 by the members of the Gülen-inspired Hizmet Movement and Islamic Studies Association. Members and friends of Hizmet movement from Calcutta, Bombay and Hyderabad came to attend the meeting and listen to Prof Lefebure.
Here is a quick note for those who do not know Hizmet movement. Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Muslim thinker and activist, influences a great number of people all across the world with his speeches and deeds. He inspires and motivates his listeners to serve humanity and bring people to unity. The followers of Gülen through their educational, cultural and dialogical services respond to the call of their guru and work for peace and harmony. This movement is an apolitical cultural movement that regards the issue of ignorance, poverty and disunity as three major enemies of mankind and it offers education, poverty relief and humanitarian aid, charity and dialogue, as remedies to these social ills.
Prof Lefebure in his narrative pointed out how his interaction with Hizmet members in the U.S.A, Turkey, India, Qatar and Australia helped him to recognize the contribution of Hizmet movement to religious understanding and social harmony. While media in general frames Muslims as a hostile community and create animosity between Muslims and Christians, a movement like Hizmet by their commitment to service to humanity counteracts the negative image of Islam, said Prof Lefebure. He stressed that interfaith friendships change the life of everyone who is open to listen to the other, and he further noted that in relationship only we can find common ground. Is not the relationship at the heart of dialogue?
Many Catholic Christians mistakenly think that only they are interested in dialogue and not Muslims. It is an eye-opener to find mainstream Muslim movements like Hizmet actively promoting dialogue of intellectual exchange and dialogue of life by their service to humanity. Sharing his passionate commitment to dialogue with his listeners, Prof Lefebure concluded that Hizmet reaches out to others giving much ground for hope.
Ahmet Favad, a member of Hizmet movement welcomed everyone in the beginning, Victor Edwin SJ, a member of Islamic Studies Association moderated the session and Ali Akkiz, the director of Indialogue Foundation proposed a vote of thanks.