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All works of love are works of peace.
|O. Aycil: On Islam - Interfaith Youth Forum in New York|
|By Oznur Aycil|
|Tuesday, December 02, 2008|
Address to the Symposium in Celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations Headquarters, New York, USA
Greetings of love and peace.
An Islamic poet, Rumi, said:
I was looking for God.I went to synagogues and I couldn’t find God.
I am here today to represent the UTS Interfaith Seminary! UTS is an interfaith seminary located in Barrytown, New York. There are students from 12 countries coming from different faith traditions. I am a student representing the Islamic tradition. I am very proud to be here as a Muslim and share our commonalities. At UTS Interfaith Seminary, we are living an interfaith life in different aspects of our lives.
Even our lunches and dinners are interfaith! I said lunches and dinners, because there are Muslim and Jewish students on the campus. For example, I am Muslim, and I have Jewish sister at the seminary. You know Muslims and Jewish people don’t eat pork. My Christian sister told the cook that my Jewish sister and I don’t eat pork. That’s beautiful when somebody is concerned about you and respects your faith!
We also celebrate our differences. We are celebrating Ramadan, Thanksgiving, and other traditional and religious holidays together with people from different faiths. A Jew is celebrating a Muslim’s Ramadan, isn’t it beautiful? Yes, we share this atmosphere at UTS.
When I decided to study at this interfaith seminary, a friend of mine said, “But you are Muslim!” Yes, I am Muslim, but Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) didn’t say anything against being with non-Muslims, and he always treated them nice and with justice.
I am Muslim, and at this seminary I am learning more about how Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) behaved, treated people. I am following his example when I meet many challenges at the seminary. I want to share that, when people said bad things to Prophet Mohammed, the only thing he did was to smile. Yes, he only smiled! I am doing the same thing when I meet challenges in my life.
Our professors are coming from diverse traditions and backgrounds. Some of my professors are here now; one of them is Dr. Michael Mickler, who is teaching a course on World Religions and Global Conflict. There is so much to say on this subject. People from different traditions are suffering in the world. For example, Muslims, Jewish, Christians, and even many secular people are suffering because of Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The Muslim world is suffering. People in Sri Lanka and Burma — my Buddhist sisters and brothers — are suffering, People in China are suffering. There are many other examples. Let us pray for them and do something to stop the suffering.
We have many people from different traditions at this conference. I want you to ask yourself how much you are reading the Torah if you are a Jew, how much you are reading the Bible if you are a Christian, or how much you are reading the Qur’an if you are a Muslim. Whatever you believe, how righteous are you in your own tradition? I am even asking myself how much of a Muslim I am. How much do I think about the Qur’an and Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) every day? Let us think for a while how much we practice our own religion before we judge other traditions.
I am Muslim, but I am learning about the teachings of Jesus (peace be upon him) on the soul. One of his teachings is “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and another is “turn your other cheek for people who did bad to you”…however do we see these teachings in many Christian behaviors! Unfortunately no! So ask yourself how much you practice your own tradition and make peace with scriptures. Faith is about heart, so let your heart make decision whatever religion you want to follow. Nobody has a right to convert somebody to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or any other religion. Let God be our CEO! Yes, God is our CEO, and he created different religions as branches of his organization.
I am from Turkey and want to promote my country, because it is a wonderful country for you to come and see. Moreover, the Prime Minister of Turkey together with the Prime Minister of Spain initiated the Alliance of Civilizations in 2005, which is becoming more and more essential in the issues of interfaith cooperation in the world.
I believe the world leaders are on the peak of interfaith and interreligious dialog, I would like to thank all the world leaders for their efforts. God bless you all!