The Words of the Phillips Family
Last week, I returned from a very successful and meaningful visit to Turkey. I met with the Turkish participants from our recent GPM in the Middle East and I am happy to report that they are well on the way to establishing the Turkish chapter of Service For Peace! However, thanks to the thorough preparations that had been made by a very gracious host, that was only one of several exciting developments.
I arrived in Istanbul on March 15 and was greeted by Riza Dalkilic whom I mentioned previously in relation to his excellent work in the Philippines. Riza is part of Risale I Nur, an enlightened Islamic movement that has around 20 million members worldwide and 5 million in Turkey. Soon after my arrival, we met some of the key leaders of the movement including several of the business leaders who are supporting all their activities. Riza is very actively involved in this movement and is clearly well respected and very well connected.
The next day, we went to Ankara to meet with members of the Turkish Parliament who are connected with the Risale I Nur movement. They are all members of the Justice and Development Party (In Turkish, it's abbreviated as AK Parti or AKP) This is the ruling party. Until the AK Party took power in 2007, Turkey considered that it was surrounded by enemies. Under the AK Party, the relationship with neighboring countries has been significantly improved. Under the AK Party, Turkey has established free travel between Turkey, Syria and Iran. They have also been in dialogue to have a similar agreement with Armenia.
Turkey has historical and cultural ties with Greece, Bulgaria, Russia and the Middle East and is currently seeking membership in the European Union. As a result, just as throughout its history, Turkey is again a key meeting point for several nations, cultures and faiths. This is why the idea of connections with the West holds a strong appeal and the vision and activities of Service For Peace (SFP) and the Global Peace Festivals (GPF) is VERY appealing. As you know, caring for the needy is one of the pillars of Islam and so the idea of global voluntary service is an exciting prospect.
During the next 10 days, we maintained an intense schedule of visiting 2-3 cities per day, greeting thousands of enthusiastic young Moslems, many of whom affirmed their interest in international service and the vision of SFP. At times, we were 50 miles from Iran and 80 miles from Iraq and there was a sense that we were in a region that holds a strong significance at this time in world history.
On the last day, I met with the young Turks who attended SFP's recent Global PeaceMakers program in the Middle East. When I began talking about the possibility of beginning an SFP chapter in Istanbul, they informed that they had already begun the process of doing so! One indication of the level of excitement about SFP and GPF is the fact that my visit was reported in more than 100 media articles in cities throughout Turkey. It seems that our approach to this nation and region is VERY timely.
Service For Peace