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Troubled Nigeria discusses Gülen’s ‘culture of coexistence’

Troubled Nigeria discusses Gülen’s ‘culture of coexistence’Nigeria, which has been plagued by interfaith and intercultural conflict for some time now, is hosting a conference today and tomorrow discussing Turkish scholar Fethullah Gülen’s ideas and activities on establishing a culture of coexistence and mutual understanding.

Co-organized by the Abuja-based Ufuk Dialogue Foundation and The Fountain magazine in cooperation with several Nigerian and Turkish universities, the conference will feature scholars from 13 countries from around the world. The conference will have sessions about coexistence with positive action and peace building, contemporary legal thought, civil society and religion, globalization and dialogue, education and Gülen-inspired schools, religion and perspectives on mutual understanding and finally tolerance and Gülen’s philosophy. Participants will discuss issues ranging from the philosophical origins of globalization to the lessons that can be taken from Gülen’s thought for managing communal conflicts in Nigeria.

“Gülen-inspired schools have been operating in Nigeria for over 13 years now. This conference will put Mr. Gülen’s thought on the social and cultural map of this country,” Tamer Çopuroğlu, president of the newly founded Ufuk Dialogue Foundation, told Today’s Zaman.

According to Çopuroğlu, Nigeria, with over 200 ethnic groups and languages, is both a perfect laboratory for testing Gülen’s peace ideas and for putting them into practice, also because Nigeria is badly in need of peace, given recent interreligious conflict in the country.

“We have been contributing to the solidarity among Nigerians with our schools for over a decade now. Last Ramadan our schools provided free iftar dinners to over 3,000 people every day and during Eid al-Adha we distributed sacrificial meat to Muslims, Christians and animists in order to create an environment of peaceful coexistence,” Çopuroğlu said. There are already 17 Gülen-inspired primary and high schools in Nigeria as well as a Nigerian Turkish University and a hospital.

Hakan Yeşilova, editor-in-chief of The Fountain magazine, is particularly impressed with the readiness of the Nigerian authorities to cooperate with the conference. “Nigeria is a gateway to sub-Saharan Africa and we will be hosting several statesmen from neighboring countries. I have been editing a journal on Gülen’s ideas for years now. For me this is like a dream come true and it gives energy for future dreams,” he told Today’s Zaman. The Fountain is planning to organize similar conferences in countries like Pakistan and India, where multiculturalism is a fact of life and where establishing and nurturing a culture of coexistence is a basic necessity.

The conference “Culture of Coexistence and Mutual Understanding: Exploring Fethullah Gülen’s Thought and Action” will be broadcast online on the official website of the conference, www.nigeriaconference2011.org and its mirror, www.cultureofcoexistence.org. The broadcast will start at 9 a.m. (GMT+2) today (Friday, Nov. 18) and at 17:30 p.m. (GMT+2) on Saturday.