Monday, October 1, 2012

Gulen Movement - An Example to the 'Committed Core' in Promoting Peace through Education

(Video Duration: 19 mins. 3 secs.)

Alp Aslandogan, Ph.D.
An international group of educators and convened for the inaugural "Peacebuilding Through Education" summit sponsored by Fountain Magazine, the Peace Islands Institute and co-sponsored by regional universities as well as the Alliance for Shared Values. The goal of the summit was to show how lessons of tolerance, understanding and intercultural respect can be woven into classroom curriculum or extracurricular activities. Throughout the day, speakers offered insights and strategies for building character in the classroom and creating a safe learning environment to incubate future leaders of more peaceful communities.

The conference featured a number of distinguished speakers from the United States and abroad. Among the government representatives were Rochelle Hendricks, the Secretary of Higher Education of New Jersey, Armin Altamirano Luistro, Secretary of the Department of Education in the Philippines, and Tanzania Minister of Education Shukuru Jumanne Kawambwa.

During his remarks, Dr. Aslandogan, President of the Alliance for Shared Values, spoke of how a "committed core" of individuals taking bold steps can help spark action among stakeholders who may be reluctant to take important steps for fear of violent reprisal. In unstable regions, warlords and terror groups recruit from the most vulnerable segments and build their ranks with those who have lost hope. A committed core of teachers, parents and community leaders with the courage to lay down their lives for these students has, in many cases, meant the difference between building a stronger community or surrendering to violent intimidators.

The Concept of the Committed Core in Promoting Peace through Education

Social ills are often experienced together in a community or society, albeit in varying degrees, regardless of the religion or culture of its members. These include social conflicts, violence, substance abuse, discrimination and poverty. While most human beings find these circumstances unacceptable, most humans may not be ready to take action to correct them. As a result the conditions may persist for long periods in communities of well-meaning citizens. The concept of the committed core represents a set of individuals who devote themselves to a social cause with a sense of solidarity around a higher calling. Such individuals help mobilize others who would otherwise refrain from action due to concerns about personal security or loss. The participants of the Hizmet social movement [aka the Gulen Movement] exemplify the concept of the committed core with their projects and their impact around the world in fields such as education, humanitarian relief and economic assistance. This presentation illustrates the concept with examples from the field.

These committed heroes are making real impacts throughout the world. At a school in Southeast Turkey, Kurdish children are receiving free tutoring to prepare for schools of medicine, law and engineering, which has created opportunity for those who might otherwise be drafted into the PKK terrorist group. A specialized school in Zamboanga, the Philippines, is bringing Christian and Muslim students together to live and learn under the same roof, which has contributed to greater unity and communication between groups in the village. Another school has brought Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian students together, which has led to friendships instead of the animosity that often festers between these communities.

Event like will hopefully yield grand commitments and outcomes that will help us achieve a more stable peace throughout the world. In the meantime, it is essential at the grassroots level that the committed core of courageous teachers, parents and community leaders remain dedicated to teaching our children the importance of character and respect so that they grow to lead more peaceful nations in the future.

* Dr. Aslandogan is the President of the Alliance for Shared Values, a new non-profit organization that convenes interfaith and intercultural dialogue organizations for the purpose of advancing human understanding of living in peace and harmony.

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