Huseyin Hurmali, Secretary-General of JWF’s Abant Platform, underscored the importance of interfaith dialogue at the High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace at United Nations Headquarters in New York on September 6, 2013.
Global and local initiatives set the stage for individual and collective actions on peace building. They send a powerful message to governments and civil society everywhere about the need for interfaith cooperation.
Huseyin Hurmali, JWF’s Abant Platform Secretary-General
During his speech at the forum, Hurmali defined peace not only as the absence of war, but also as the presence of people living in harmony with their differences. He argued that to achieve a state of peace, interfaith dialogue initiatives should be a part of everyday life in all countries. Such a step could prevent future conflicts, given that even peaceful societies are susceptible to conflicts among ethnic and religious groups.
Hurmali provided several examples of JWF’s own interfaith dialogue initiatives, including seeking out and working with various religious leaders, hosting dinners during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and holding “Friendship Dinners” to bring people of different backgrounds together.
Hurmali explained that JWF finds inspiration for its interfaith initiatives from Honorary President Fethullah Gulen, a prominent Muslim scholar dedicated to peace worldwide.
Drawing on Gulen’s ideas, Hurmali cited education as the antidote for what JWF considers the three greatest enemies of achieving peace: ignorance, poverty, and internal schism. “We believe that the political, economic, and legal regulations for sustainable peace can never have a lasting effect if the people [in society] are not educated on universally accepted values, like human rights, freedom of expression, equality of opportunities, peaceful coexistence, and, above all, wishing for others what one wishes for his- or herself,” Hurmali said.
Hurmali supported building educational opportunities for young people of all backgrounds, saying that they should experience living and studying in a pluralistic society. This environment paired with traditional academic skills would enable them to act as “agents of peace” in their regions.
Hurmali concluded his speech with a call to action: “We all have to make an effort to know and understand each other, accept everyone as they are, appreciate our commonalities, and respect our differences. This is the first step toward interfaith dialogue.”
Hurmali was invited to be a forum speaker by Vuk Jeremic, President of the UN General Assembly, and Ambassador Abdul Momen, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN. Hurmali’s speech was part of a panel moderated by Professor John O. Voll of Georgetown University. The other panelists included Katherine R. Henderson, President of Auburn Seminary; Matthew Hodes, Director of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations; and William F. Vendley, Secretary General of Religions for Peace.